The accused MAX killer Jeremy Christian was a person of interest to the Portland Police Bureau well before Christian allegedly stabbed two men to death and seriously wounded another on a crowded rush hour train on May 26, 2017.
That information is one of the many details contained in voluminous investigative documents the bureau released yesterday at the conclusion of a probe into the actions of Lt. Jeff Niiya, the bureau's primary contact with warring street protesters.
In February, PPB launched an investigation of Niiya, the bureau's lead liaison with the protest groups that often take to city streets.
WW and the Portland Mercury had published stories based on Niiya's text messages with Joey Gibson, the leader of the right-wing group Patriot Prayer. In response to community concerns about whether Niiya and PPB were unduly friendly toward right-wing protesters, Mayor Ted Wheeler called for an investigation.
On Sept. 12, Wheeler and Police Chief Danielle Outlaw released the results of that investigation, which cleared Niiya of any wrongdoing. Investigators found that Niiya had been trying to communicate with a wide ideological variety of sources without favoring any of them.
In an April 8 interview with the Independent Police Review investigator Andrea Damewood, Niiya provided some new information about Christian, who had attended a Patriot Prayer street protest and made comments both online and on the MAX train suggesting he had white supremacist leanings. (Disclosure: Damewood is a former WW reporter.)
"I will tell you that Jeremy Christian was on my radar before anything that he did during the [April 2017] Avenue of the Roses parade where it got cancelled," Niiya told Damewood. "His picture was circulated by myself to all the sergeants that day."
Niiya said that Christian had threatened police online.
"Jeremy Christian had put out social media post with threats to police officers," he continued. "And so, that's what got him on my radar, and he did show up at that event. In no way did I ever believe what occurred shortly thereafter on the MAX train was going to happen."
In the interview, Niiya noted that his statements about Christian are likely to draw media attention. He emphasized that he had no indication in early 2017 that Christian was a serious danger to the public.
"He was a known quantity because of the threats to police officers," he says, "but no indication that he was going to go and murder a couple people on a MAX train."
A month later, Christian encountered a woman named Demetria Hester on a MAX Yellow Line train. She told press in 2017 that Christian cursed at her and ranted: "You do not have the right to even be on this train. … You don't have a right to speak. You're black. You don't have a right to be here. All you Muslims, blacks, Jews, I will kill all of you."
He later threw a Gatorade bottle at her on a station platform, hitting her in the eye. She maced him and kicked him in the groin.
Hester has said that police failed to adequately respond to her report of Christian's attack on her.