A Washington state man has been arrested in the fatal stabbing of a cab driver who drove him to a store where police alleged the man purchased the knife used in the slaying.
The Bonner County Sheriff’s Office in Idaho identified the defendant as 19-year-old Jacob Coleman, who was charged with first-degree murder in the death of Gagandeep Singh.
Coleman had flown on Monday from Seattle to Spokane, Washington, to begin a new semester of college, according to a statement from the sheriff’s office. But “he became angry and began to have homicidal thoughts,” police said, after claiming he was denied entry to Gonzaga University, a private Catholic school in Spokane.
Gonzaga did not immediately respond to a request for comment sent Thursday morning. NBC affiliate KHQ reported that the university said it “has no record of an application” from Coleman and that it was cooperating with law enforcement.
The sheriff’s office said Coleman hailed a cab driven by Singh, 22, at Spokane International Airport and allegedly asked to be taken to a fictitious friend’s home in Bonner County, Idaho, across from the Washington border.
“According to Coleman, as they drove, his thoughts became increasingly homicidal, and in Ponderay, Idaho, Coleman requested the victim cab driver to stop at a local store,” the Bonner County Sheriff’s Office statement alleges. “Coleman at that time purchased a knife and re-entered the cab.”
Heading east, Singh later stopped his car in the city of Kootenai after realizing he’d been sent to an erroneous location, police said. That’s when Singh was stabbed multiple times with the knife Coleman allegedly bought at the store, according to the sheriff’s office and a criminal complaint.
Singh’s relatives contacted police after he had not checked in with them as he normally did, the statement from the sheriff’s office said. A sheriff’s patrol supervisor later found Singh’s vehicle where it was parked, authorities said.
Coleman surrendered without incident and was behind bars in the Bonner County Jail, police said.
Efforts to reach Singh’s family for comment were not immediately successful.
A woman who said she is engaged to Singh’s cousin told KHQ that Singh was a hard worker who juggled jobs at a restaurant and as a cab driver while also attending college.
“I don’t understand how someone could do something so horrible to someone so innocent,” Tanya’navi Singh told the TV station.
Bonner County prosecuting attorney Louis E. Marshall told NBC News in an email there was no evidence at this point that the stabbing was a hate crime.
“We have secured search warrants for [Coleman’s] computer and [smartphone] and will be verifying,” he said. “If any evidence comes to light, we will reevaluate. We will try to ascertain the motive behind this senseless murder.”
A woman who picked up the phone at the public defender’s office in Bonner County Thursday told NBC News they are not permitted to discuss any of their cases with news media.
Marshall said Coleman’s defense attorney filed a motion Thursday morning to determine whether Coleman is competent to stand trial. An examination will likely take place within a week, he said.
Marshall added that competency deals solely with the defendant’s present state of mind and said Idaho does not have an insanity defense.