SEATTLE — Authorities at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., have identified the three soldiers arrested in the stabbing death of a fourth soldier, which prosecutors are investigating as a potential hate crime.
Pvt. Jeremiah D. Hill, of Chicago; Pfc. Cedarium L. Johnson, of Tyler, Texas, and Spc. Ajoni I. Runnion-Bareford, of Islesboro, Maine, are all infantryman assigned to the 3-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 7th Infantry Division. They are expected to make an initial court appearance Tuesday.
The Pierce County prosecutor says there may have been some “trash talk” during a fatal confrontation between two groups of soldiers in Lakewood, Wash., but there’s no indication that race was the issue.
Police investigating the weekend stabbing death of a Washington-based soldier said Monday they had arrested three other soldiers from the same military installation.
Detectives had been investigating whether the stabbing was racially motivated — and potentially a hate crime. However, both Prosecutor Mark Lindquist and Lakewood Police Lt. Chris Lawler said there was no indication that there was racial hatred or that the men were seeking out people of a certain race to attack early Saturday.
Police said all five suspects in the stabbing of Spc. Tevin Geike, 20, are soldiers at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Two of the five suspects are cooperating with law enforcement and were not being held in custody, authorities said.
Lindquist told The Seattle Times it appears “there was only one individual who stabbed the victim.” He said prosecutors were trying to learn more about the roles of the other two men arrested.
One of those arrested, 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” 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.
Lakewood police 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.
—Staff Reporter Joe Gould contributed to this report.