A 20-year-old Marine who was fatally shot in barracks in Washington, D.C., had long dreamed of joining the military, his mother told NBC News on Wednesday.
Lance Cpl. Riley Kuznia — a native of Karlstad, Minnesota, about 17 miles from the Canadian border — died from a single gunshot wound suffered at 5:05 a.m. at Marine Barracks Washington on Tuesday, authorities said.
His death is being investigated by the local Metropolitan Police Department. A police spokeswoman stopped short of calling Kuznia's death a accident, but said it did not appear to be a crime.
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"MPD is conducting a death investigation, as opposed to a homicide investigation," police spokeswoman Alaina Gertz told NBC News on Wednesday. "MPD has not established any criminal intent has happened."
His mother, Markelle Kuznia, 47, said Marines knocked on her door Tuesday and delivered the news, though with few details.
"We don’t know what happened," she told NBC News. "We just know it wasn’t self-inflicted."
The mom and registered nurse sobbed as she recounted her son's long desire to serve in the military.
“He would tell me, 'Mom I need to be challenged, I need to be tested.’ He wanted to be a Marine," she said.
"He wanted the camaraderie; he wanted to be challenged, to be pushed to the limits," she said. '"He said, 'I want to do this for my country.'"
The young Marine, who had played high school hockey, always enjoyed working with his hands, his mother said. To earn extra money as a teen, he purchased, repaired and resold broken-down trucks and worked odd jobs around nearby farms.
He aspired to someday join the Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command. But if that dream fell short, Kuznia wanted to own and operate his own construction company, the mom said,
“We knew it was always possible" for him to be killed on duty, Markelle Kuznia said. "But you can’t stop your kids from dreaming and going for it. You have to just let them go and let them be.”
In addition to his mother, Riley Kuznia is survived by his father, older brother, older sister and younger sister.
David K. Li
David K. Li is a breaking news reporter for NBC News.