Many Portlanders thought little could shock them more than the fatally stabbing of two men on a train for defending teens against anti-Muslim and racist taunts.
But after last week’s attack, in which 35-year-old Jeremy Joseph Christian is accused of killing two men by slashing their throats, police released details of a new element to the story this week.
As Ricky Best, a 53-year-old Army veteran, lay dying on the train, police say a man sneaked up to him, took his backpack and slipped his wedding ring off his finger.
Police released photos and surveillance video on Thursday of the middle-aged man, who wore a mullet haircut, a baseball cap, a black T-shirt with an image of Marilyn Monroe and an American flag, and black shoes.
The video showed him exiting the station after the attack holding two backpacks. In his right hand was a black one that matched that of Best’s, which police said had “personal items important to the Best family.”
A day later, officers said they found the man they were looking for.
Police said they found George Elwood Tschaggeny in a small homeless camp in northeast Portland. Tschaggeny, 51, wore Best’s ring as he was arrested “without incident.”
“Detectives also recovered Best’s backpack, but some items were missing, including a wallet with phone numbers of some of Best’s long-time friends,” a Portland Police Bureau statement said.
Police described the wallet as having a “military-style camouflage color.”
Officers said they received several tips from people who said they had seen the man shown in surveillance images. One was from a Domino’s Pizza employee who directed police to an area under a highway overpass where she thought he was staying.
Tschaggeny was taken to the Multnomah County jail and booked on charges of theft, tampering with evidence and abuse of a corpse. He will be arraigned Monday.
Meanwhile, Christian faces murder charges for the deaths of Best and Taliesin Myrddin Namkai Meche, and attempted murder for injuries suffered by another man, Micah David-Cole Fletcher. As he was arraigned Tuesday, he shouted a stream of threats.
“Free speech or die, Portland. You got no safe place. This is America. Get out if you don’t like free speech,” he said as he was led into court.
“You call it terrorism; I call it patriotism, you hear me? Die,” he said as he was taken out of court.
Images have gone viral of Christian, who was known to police and civil rights groups as a white supremacist, attending a free speech rally in Portland in April, where he was captured giving a Nazi salute.
The organizers of the demonstration have distanced themselves from Christian while vowing to move forward with a similar rally this weekend in a downtown Portland park despite pleas from city officials.
Sunday’s “Trump Rally for Free Speech” is expected to draw a range of far-right activists and social media personalities, as well as leftist “anti-fascist” groups. Police said they are preparing for violent brawls like those that broke out at similar rallies in Berkeley this spring.
A coalition of dozens of religious and civil rights groups opposed to violence also plan to gather at a “Portland Stands Against Hate” rally the same day across the street at City Hall.