Fatal Soldier-on-Soldier Attack

In Washington state, police are backing off of the possibility that a group of black men allegedly killed a soldier because he was white.

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A soldier at a makeshift memorial for Spc. Chris Lawler (screenshot/KIRO)

Updated Oct. 6, 2:45 p.m. EDT: Police have now backed off allegations that the attack on a soldier over the weekend was a hate crime, according to the Daily News. The main suspect has been identified as another soldier, Jeremiah Hill.

Earlier: 

Police in Lakewood, Wash., are investigating the fatal attack early Saturday morning on a 20-year-old soldier. He could have been targeted because he was white, police are saying. According to the Seattle Times, Lakewood Police Lt. Chris Lawler released a statement to the press, saying, "It looks like it could be racially motivated or a hate crime."  

Early Saturday evening, Spc. Tevin Geike, an aviation operations specialist with the U.S. Army, was leaving a hotel, celebrating his impending discharge from the Army, according to New York's Daily News. He was walking with two other soldiers, Matthew Barnes and Brian Johnson, when men who were passing by in a car started calling the soldiers racial epithets, Barnes told KIRO

"One of the guys in the back seat yells something like white and cracker." Barnes said he yelled back, "So this is how we treat combat veterans now?" The car came back and five black men stepped out. They demanded to know what Barnes had said and he repeated himself.

The Seattle Times reports that this is when the men in the car pulled over to confront them.

Five men climbed out of the car, and surrounded the soldiers as the verbal confrontation continued.

When the driver determined the men really were combat veterans, he summoned his passengers back to the car. As they were returning to the car, one them appeared to bump Geike, who fell to the ground as the car sped away.

"It was then that they discovered the victim had been stabbed and was bleeding profusely. Geike died at the scene," Lawler wrote in a news release.

Four of the men were described as black, all in their early to mid-20s, with the main suspect said to be 6 foot 1, medium build, wearing a blue zip-up hoodie.