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Father Of Four Killed Trying To Protect Fellow Passengers

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Father Of Four Killed Trying To Protect Fellow Passengers

PORTLAND, Ore. (CNS) — On a
crowded Portland commuter train May 26, a selfless Catholic father of four
stepped forward to calm a tense situation. He was that kind of guy.

Rick Best defended two women
being accosted by a passenger yelling hate speech about Muslims and other
groups. Best, a 53-year-old member of Christ the King Parish in Milwaukie,
Oregon, would die for his noble deed.

In less than a minute, he and
another defender were slain, slashed in the neck in front of horrified
onlookers. A third man survived the knife attack.

Best’s funeral Mass is set for June
5 at Christ the King Church.

The accused killer, 35-year-old
Jeremy Christian, had been on a racially charged rampage. With a history of
police run-ins going back 15 years at least, he was caught on camera in April,
draped in an American flag and repeatedly yelling bigoted epithets during a
demonstration in Portland. On his Facebook page, he posted a photo of himself
performing the Nazi salute and declared himself a white supremacist.

The day before the killings,
Christian hurled a bottle at a black woman at another rail station.

On the unseasonably warm
afternoon of May 26, one of the young women who became Christian’s focus on the
packed train was wearing a hijab; the other was black.

When the bloodied train stopped
at the next station, Christian escaped, but police captured him soon after. He
remained in custody in Multnomah County Jail, indicted on two counts of
aggravated murder, one count of attempted murder, two counts of intimidation
and one count of being a felon in possession of a restricted weapon.

Best was pronounced dead at the
scene. Taliesin Myrddin Namkai Meche, a 23-year-old graduate of Reed College in
Portland, died later at the hospital. Injured in the attack and recovering was
Micah David-Cole Fletcher, a 21-year-old student at Portland State University.

Best leaves a wife, Myhanh Duong
Best, and four children: boys ages 19, 17 and 14, and a 12-year-old daughter.

A veteran who served in combat
in Iraq and Afghanistan during a 23-year career in the Army, he had worked as a
technician for the city of Portland’s Bureau of Development Services since

His supervisor, Kareen Perkins,
told KGW-TV: “He was always the first person you would go to for help. I’ve
talked to most of his co-workers today, and several of them said it’s just like
Rick to step in and help somebody out.”

Best and his wife, who is from
Vietnam, met at Portland Community College. He retired from the Army as a
platoon sergeant in 2012. Living in the suburban town of Happy Valley, he
decided the local government needed refreshing and in 2014 ran unsuccessfully
for the Clackamas County commission, refusing to accept campaign donations.

In a prepared statement,
Portland Archbishop Alexander K. Sample sought to comfort a city shocked by the
brutal slayings. The metropolitan area of more than 1 million averages about 20
murders per year.

“Pray for those who may now feel
unsafe in moving freely about a city that truly welcomes people of all
cultures, faith traditions and walks of life,” Archbishop Sample said. “Pray
for those whose hearts and minds may be hardened to the love of God and act out
in such violent and hateful ways.”

He said “profound gratitude
is owed to those who bravely stepped forward to protect the young women who
were being vehemently harassed.”

During a Memorial Day homily at
a cemetery not far from the Best home, Archbishop Sample told hundreds of
worshippers May 29 that Best learned in the Army what it means to put one’s
life on the line for others.

Best and Namkai Meche, the
archbishop said, gave themselves in defense of the defenseless. In that, the
archbishop said, the men closely followed Jesus.

Christ the King Parish is in
shock, but has mobilized to support the Bests.

“This family is so faith
filled,” Deacon Jim Pittman, who served for years at Christ the King, told the
Catholic Sentinel, Portland’s archdiocesan newspaper. The Bests came to Sunday
morning Mass May 28, just 40 hours after the killings.

Deacon Pittman has been meeting
with the family. “I told the kids, ‘Your dad died in the way Christ told us
to,'” he said. Eric, the oldest, told Deacon Pittman that he is not yet ready
to forgive, but does not feel hate.

Deacon Pittman told Eric and the
other children it is all right to cry. “That’s what our dad always told us,”
responded Eric, who was taking a lead in making arrangements for his father’s

“They are just the nicest family
ever,” said Evans Brackenbrough, a La Salle Prep student who attends Christ the
King youth group with two of the Best children. “There is nothing bad in any of
the kids.”

At the light rail station, a
massive memorial has sprung up. Flowers, candles and chalked prayers cover the
area. Citizens stand and weep, even if they did not know anyone involved. One
visitor to the vigil site, Tami Soprani of St. Patrick Parish in Portland,
tried to explain the feeling.

“You see someone stand up for
what we all believe, and that is very powerful, very emotional,” Soprani said.

– – –

Langlois is editor of the
Catholic Sentinel, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Portland.


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