Three active-duty soldiers in Washington state have been arrested and booked for murder in the stabbing death of a fellow soldier, police said today.
After Saturday's stabbing of Tevin Geike, 20, investigators were also looking into whether the fatal attack was also a hate crime, but authorities said today that they do not believe race was a motivating factor. The victim was white and the alleged attackers were African American.
Three suspects, Jeremiah Hill, 23, Cedarium Johnson, 21, and Ajoni Runnion-Bareford, 21, were arrested and booked for Geike's murder, police said.
The victim and the suspects were all active-duty soldiers from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, about 9 miles south of Tacoma. The suspects were all members of a combat infantry unit and the victim was a member of a combat aviation unit, police said.
The arrests were made after a military sergeant called Lakewood detectives on Sunday afternoon to say that he had information on the stabbing death from a soldier who had come to him, police said.
"The soldier had told his sergeant that another solider in his unit, Jeremiah Hill, had asked for first aid for a knife wound on his right hand on Saturday afternoon," police said. "The soldier stated that Hill told him he cut his hand when he stabbed a guy to death over the weekend."
When the sergeant confronted Hill, he allegedly said he cut himself while chopping vegetables, police said. They took him to a hospital for treatment and he told staff he cut his hand while cutting a parachute cord, police said.
Authorities said they obtained information on two other people involved in the crime and they were brought in for interviews and cooperated with police.
One of the men brought in for questioning admitted that he was in a car with four friends driving on Pacific Highway when words were exchanged between the men in the car and the men that were walking, including Geike, according to police.
"He said they stopped to talk to the victims, but nothing happened once they discovered they were all active-duty soldiers," police said in a news release. "As the suspects were walking back to their car, Hill appeared to 'bear hug' the victim and pushed him to the ground."
The cooperating soldier told police Hill was covered in blood when he got back in the car and they realized he had stabbed Geike. They allegedly fled the scene and disposed of the knife, police said. The second cooperating soldier corroborated the account, cops said. It was unclear why only two of the four men in the car, other than Hill, were charged.
"It appears from interviewing everyone involved that race was not a motivating factor in this homicide," police said. "The main suspect, Jeremiah Hill, did not make a statement; so it's unknown exactly why he did this."
Lakewood Police Lt. Chris Lawler said that none of the four men who were in the car with Hill knew what the motive might be when they were interviewed.
"They have no clue," Lawler told ABCNews.com today. "That's the baffling part. Who knows what the motivation was?"
Authorities did not know if the suspects have retained attorneys or have entered pleas. Officials at Joint Base Lewis-McChord did not immediately respond to requests for comment from ABC News.
Glenn Zimmerman, a friend of Geike, said the solider had been celebrating being discharged from the military at a nearby hotel.
"None of this makes and sense," Zimmerman told ABC News' Seattle affiliate KOMO-TV. "We came down here, and he was already dead."