Race wasn't involved in the roadside stabbing death of a soldier in Washington state last weekend, the prosecutor said Wednesday.
Three African-American soldiers stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, near Tacoma south of Seattle, were charged Tuesday in the weekend death of a white fellow soldier, Spc. Tevin A. Geike, 20, of Summerville, S.C.
Authorities initially suggested that race may have played a role in the confrontation that led to Geike's death along a road near the base. But in an interview Wednesday with NBC station KING of Seattle, Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist said bluntly, "Race was a non-factor."
"In order to prove malicious harassment, the prosecutor has to show that the defendant intentionally committed the crime because of the victim's race," Lindquist said.
Prosecutors said in documents filed Tuesday in Pierce County Superior Court that the confrontation appeared to have been triggered by something someone shouted at Geike, but afterward, nobody at the scene could recall what it was.
A more likely explanation is that "people commit stupid, sad, senseless crimes, and as far as we can tell, this is one of them," Lindquist said Wednesday.
Geike, a combat aviation specialist at Lewis-McChord, was walking early Saturday with friends in the town of Lakewood when a group of men in a car yelled something at them, according to the court documents.
Geike or one of the men with him yelled back "something related to being 'combat veterans,'" which led to a verbal confrontation, according to the charging documents.
As the argument appeared to be "de-escalating" and the suspects drove off, Geike fell to the ground covered in blood, prosecutors said. An autopsy found that he died from a deep stab wound that cut through a rib and entered his heart.
Pvt. Jeremiah DeShaun Hill, 23, of Chicago, was charged with first-degree murder, and Pfc. Cedarium Laborious Johnson, 21, of Tyler, Texas, and Spc. Ajoni Runnion-Bareford, 21, of Isleboro, Maine, were charged with rendering criminal assistance for allegedly helping to dispose of the murder weapon.
All of the suspects are members of the 3-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 7th Infantry Division, at Lewis-McChord.
In 911 tapes released Wednesday, a dispatcher describes the men who were fighting with Geike and his friends as "four black dudes in a black car." But there is no other reference to race in the tapes.
"They stabbed him! They stabbed him!" the 911 caller can be heard yelling repeatedly.