SEATTLE (AP) — Authorities investigating the stabbing death of a Washington-based soldier said Monday they have arrested three other soldiers who serve at the same military installation.
Detectives had been investigating whether the stabbing was racially motivated — and potentially a hate crime. But Lakewood Police Lt. Chris Lawler said Monday that there was no indication that there was racial hatred or that the men were seeking out people of a certain race to attack that night.
Police said that all five suspects in the stabbing of Spc. Tevin Geike, 20, are soldiers at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Two of the five suspects in the case are cooperating with law enforcement and were not being held in custody, authorities said.
One of the suspects, Jeremiah Hill, had asked for first aid Saturday for a knife wound on his right hand, according to police. Authorities said another soldier stated that Hill said he cut his hand when stabbing a guy to death over the weekend.
Police described Hill, 23, as the "main suspect" in the case and said he did not make a statement and asked for a lawyer. Cedarium Johnson, 21, and Ajoni Runnion-Bareford, 21, were also booked into the Pierce County Jail on Monday, Lakewood police said.
Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist said Monday it appears "there was only one individual who stabbed the victim." He told The Seattle Times that prosecutors are trying to learn more about the roles of the other two men arrested.
All three were expected to make an initial court appearance Tuesday.
Lakewood police had said Geike was walking with two friends when a car drove by and someone inside shouted a racial comment toward the white soldiers. Authorities said the soldiers shouted something back, and a group of five black men from the car stopped and surrounded the soldiers.
Police said the men from the car began to leave but one of the suspects appeared to bump into Geike as he walked past. Geike's friends discovered he had been stabbed.
The two groups of soldiers did not know each other, police said.
"Both friends of the victim and friends of the suspect agree that race was not the issue here," Lindquist told The News Tribune. "Detectives reported to me that there may have been some trash talk, but that race was a non-issue."
The Army said Geike, of Summerville, S.C., was an aviation operations specialist and a member of the 7th Infantry Division. He entered the Army in October 2010 and arrived at JBLM in April 2011.