Micah Fletcher, who was stabbed in the neck during the May 26, 2017 attack on a MAX train car, testified Tuesday in the murder trial of Jeremy Christian.
Fletcher, 24, is a carpenter who was born and raised in Portland. At the time of the attack, he was a student at Portland State University, and he was on his way to a shift working at Stark Street Pizza.
The three-hour testimony was emotional, and Fletcher shook with silent sobs at points as he recounted the moments when Christian stabbed him, Taliesin Namkai-Meche and Ricky Best. Namkai-Meche and Best died.
Fletcher told prosecuting attorney Jeffrey Howes that on the day of the attack, he intervened to stop Christian's racist rant because he felt like it was the right thing to do. Other passengers, including Namkai-Meche, first confronted Christian as he yelled at two black teenagers, and Fletcher stepped in because he feared for the safety of Namkai-Meche and others.
He said Christian was the first one to get physical, and that Fletcher was responding to that. He had no idea Christian had a knife, Fletcher said.
"I pushed him again, hopefully closer to the door," Fletcher said. "He responded by stabbing me in the throat."
Fletcher said he was caught off guard by the stabbing, and that he initially thought Christian punched him, until he saw blood.
He then rushed off the train, he said, but tried to remain calm so as not to lose more blood. In that moment, Fletcher testified, he thought he was dying. He called his mom.
"I said, 'Hey mom, how's it going?' And she said, 'Are you okay?' Because she could obviously tell from the sound of my voice that something was happening," Fletcher said. "Then I told her I loved her, and that I'd see her soon. And I asked her, as an aside, to call my work and let them know that I wouldn't be making it today."
During cross-examination, defense attorney Dean Smith honed in on Fletcher's earlier affiliations with antifacist protesters in Portland. The line of questioning appeared to be an attempt to portray the events on the MAX as a political brawl that Fletcher unnecessarily escalated.
On April 29, 2017, less than one month prior to the fatal May 26 stabbings, Christian and Fletcher both attended a "free speech" rally in Montavilla. Christian, tagging along behind a right-wing group, wore an American flag as a cape and gave Nazi salutes. Fletcher attended the event dressed as a clown.
Smith asked Fletcher if he was familiar with the term "tactical frivolity," to which Fletcher responded that he had not heard the term before, but supposed it could mean counter-protesing in a manner that mocks the other group.
"You know that one thing that could happen at a rally is that people could show up and make a lot of noise which interferes with someone else's ability to speak," Smith said. "Is that fair to say?"
"No," Fletcher responded.
"What about when clowns show up and they've got their little horns, they're honking, honking, honking, and it makes it hard—obnoxious—to try to hear somebody speaking… have you been at a rally where that has happened?"
Fletcher said he believes that type of honking occurred at the Montavilla rally in question.
"So that's one of the ways to interfere with free speech maybe?" Smith said.
"No… I would describe it as people honking horns at a rally," Fletcher responded. "What their intention is, is moot. You can speak no matter who, where you are. Nobody's putting a hand over their mouth and making them not talk. You're still speaking, quite freely. Which you are entitled to, I believe."
Smith then pointed to Fletcher's attendance at another rally earlier that same month, where he wore a black rubber skull mask and counter-protested a conservative event.
Fletcher was photographed at the rally standing behind the banner of the antifascist group, Rose City Antifa. At the event, Fletcher lobbed smoke bombs into the crowd, and police arrested him. (Fletcher pled guilty, but his record was later cleared.)
Smith appeared to be laying the groundwork for the theory that Fletcher unnecessarily escalated the situation on the MAX.
He pointed to the fact that another man on the train, Shawn Forde, was already engaged in a verbal altercation with Christian prior to Fletcher's involvement, and that Forde was successfully diverting attention away from Walia Mohamed and Destinee Mangum, toward whom Christian was directing a racist rant.
"So do you think that if you had taken a little more time, you might have realized that Mr. Forde was already diverting the attention to himself, and maybe that was a solution right there?" Smith said.
"I suppose it's possible," Fletcher responded.
The exchange between Fletcher and Smith grew heated at times, and Fletcher sometimes pushed back on Smith's line of questioning.
Smith asked Fletcher about statements he gave to police shortly after the attack, including a statement in which Fletcher said his approach might not have been the best way to de-escalate the situation.
"Do you remember saying that?" Smith asked Fletcher.
"No, I don't really remember this entire interview, sir," Fletcher said. "I was on morphine in a hospital."
Fletcher contended throughout the cross-examination that his motivation in approaching Christian was to de-escalate, to convince Christian to leave the train on his own volition, and to "encourage him to realize that it's just the most constructive option for him at that moment," Fletcher said.
During the prosecution's redirect, Fletcher explained that, as the situation escalated, he stood between Christian and Taliesin Namkai-Meche with the intention of replacing Namkai-Meche in the altercation.
Howes asked Fletcher if the intervention worked the way he had intended it to.
"No. No it didn't," Fletcher said. "He died. I got hurt. I was wrong. I didn't save him. I really wanted to, and I couldn't. I just wasn't strong enough."