Hundreds mourn man killed during heroic act to protect fellow passengers

IMAGE: CNS photo/Ed Langlois, Catholic Sentinel

By Ed Langlois

PORTLAND, Ore. (CNS) — The
morning after police in Portland arrested 14 demonstrators at dueling political
protests, about 800 worshippers turned out in a unified show of support for a
man whose heroic act transcended division.

Ricky Best was laid to rest in
Willamette National Cemetery in Portland June 5 after a funeral Mass at a
packed Christ the King Church in the suburb of Milwaukie. On hand were
Christians, Muslims, Jews, peace activists and members of a motorcycle club
that backs President Donald Trump.

“Many of us consider him a hero.
Many of us in the church consider him a martyr,” said Msgr. Richard Paperini,
pastor of Christ the King.

Best, a 53-year-old city of
Portland employee, was one of three men who stepped forward May 26 to defend
two teens on a Portland commuter train. The girls, one in a Muslim headscarf
and the other black, were the target of an anti-Muslim and racist verbal attack
from 35-year-old Jeremy Christian.

When Best — along with
23-year-old Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche and 21-year-old Micah Fletcher — spoke up,
Christian pulled a knife and slashed at the men. Best and Namkai-Meche died and
Fletcher was hospitalized. Police apprehended Christian, who has been arraigned
on charges of aggravated murder.

One of the girls, 16-year-old
Destinee Mangum, attended the funeral with her family.

During the Mass, Best’s
19-year-old son spoke to the crowd.

“I look into my father’s eyes
and I see the love of God made manifest,” Erik Best, a Clackamas Community
College student, said in a halting voice. “He loved everyone.”

The whole family wore white
headbands, a symbol of mourning and honor in the Vietnamese tradition of
Myhanh, Best’s wife.

“We are grateful to Ricky for
the example he gave us,” Msgr. Paperini said during his homily, citing the
Gospel reading from St. John, which said in part: “No one has greater love than
this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” He told the Best family that
the parish stands with them now and will stand with them in the future.

“He saw the opportunity to love
as a privilege,” said Msgr. Paperini, who recalled Best once telling him: “It’s
really not about us, but about our ability to be there for others.”

Portland Archbishop Alexander K.
Sample, who attended the funeral, said Best fulfilled the call of those who
follow Jesus, an act that will live on in memory and change the world for the
better. The archbishop said even he asks “why?” when tragedies happen, but over
time, “I always see the good God is able to draw out of the most horrible of
human tragedies.”

He said Best’s act of heroism
has already borne fruit, drawing together Christians and Muslims in a mutual
stand against hate and violence.

Harris Zafar of the Ahmadiyya
Muslim Community in Portland told mourners he wishes he could thank Best in the

“I would thank him for being the
father I strive to be and the human being I strive to be,” Zafar said. “I would
tell him thank you for helping me be able to go home to my kids and say, ‘Daddy
was wrong. Superheroes do exist.'”

Zafar cited the Quran, which
says that if you kill one, it’s as if you have killed all; and if you save a
life, it is as if you saved all.

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler and
U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley attended the funeral and greeted the family.

As the funeral procession wound
up Mount Scott to the cemetery, citizens lined the road, waved flags and

At the cemetery, more than 50
flag-carrying motorcyclists welcomed the hearse. Best, who served in the Army
for 23 years, was buried with full military honors. Oregon Gov. Kate Brown was
on hand to help present the casket flag to his wife.

– – –

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

– – –

Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at

Original Article