Police believe they have recovered the murder weapon used to stab a 20-year-old Joint Base Lewis-McChord soldier to death. But they still don't have a motive for the stabbing.
Police arrested three suspects in connection to the fatal stabbing early Saturday morning in Lakewood. The victim and all five suspects involved were active duty soldiers.
Lakewood police say 20-year-old Tevin Geike was walking with two friends when a car drove by and the passengers yelled something at the soldiers about being white. Someone yelled back, and said 'Is this the way you treat combat soldiers?'
Once they acknowledged all were JBLM soldiers, the other passengers in the car thought a brewing altercation had been resolved.
"They thought everything was cool because they'd all figured out they were active duty soldiers," said Lakewood Police Chief Brett Farrar in an interview with KIRO Radio's Dori Monson Show.
Farrar says several suspects admitted during an interview the suspect threw a knife believed used in the stabbing out of the car in Tillicum near Lakewood.
"Lo and behold, about a half hour or hour into it we found what we believed to be the murder weapon," he says.
The knife is considered crucial in helping convict the suspect, Farrar says.
"It's crucial. The doctors and pathologists can do amazing things. They can match up cut wounds to the blades. And obviously we'll be sending this to the lab to see if there's any blood evidence or DNA evidence on that weapon."
Farrar says investigators were able to identify the suspects after a sergeant came forward with information about the stabbing.
The sergeant had learned that a 23-year-old soldier in his unit had asked for first aid for a knife wound on his right hand on Saturday afternoon. The suspect apparently told a fellow soldier he received the wound when he stabbed another man to death over the weekend.
The soldier didn't believe that the suspect had stabbed someone to death at first and took him to Madigan Hospital, where the sergeant confronted him about his story. He allegedly said he was chopping vegetables when he injured himself.
According to police statements, the suspect later told hospital staff he injured himself while cutting a parachute cord.
Police say information that was obtained by another person involved in the crime led them to bring in the suspect for an interview. Police say that suspect admitted that he was at the scene. Detectives report he said he was in a vehicle with four of his friends driving on Pacific Highway South when words were exchanged between them and the men walking on the street.
The suspect told police they stopped to talk to the victims, but nothing happened once they discovered they were all active duty soldiers.
As the suspects walked back to their car, the suspect believed to have stabbed Geike appeared to "bear hug" him and push him to the ground, police say.
The suspect told police that the soldier who had "bear-hugged" Geike was covered in blood when he got into the car and they discovered he had stabbed the victim and cut himself.
"None of the guys in the car know why he did it and when we went to interview him [the suspect], he asked for a lawyer so we didn't get an opportunity to get his side of it," said Farrar.
In an interview with KIRO Radio's Ron and Don Show, Amy Johnson, a friend of Geike's, says her boyfriend held the victim as he died while she looked on in shock.
"We kept calling and calling (911). 'Somebody please get here. Our friend is dying, he's bleeding out.' I bent down, I reached for him, and then we saw the light leave his eyes."
Johnson says everyone is at a loss as to what led to the attack.
"There must have been something that made him do that. I would understand if it was for PTSD ... maybe Kevin looked at him the wrong way."
Police say the group fled the scene and disposed of the knife. A third cooperative suspect corroborated the account.
The two suspects that provided accounts of what happened have not been arrested. The two other soldiers in the car are under arrest.
There had been reports police had been investigating the stabbing as a possible racially motivated hate crime, but that was merely media speculation, Farrar said.
"The best we can do is gather as many facts and evidence and produce that to the prosecutor's office and let them make a determination," Farrar said.
Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist tells KIRO Radio the suspected killer will be charged with First Degree Murder. Two others in the car will be charged with rendering criminal assistance.
"It's a senseless crime," said Lt. Chris Lawler. "If there were words exchanged and they all decided, 'okay, we're not going to fight, we're done,' and they all head back, all these guys, all the suspects had to do was get in the car and leave. But it's senseless. There was no sense of themselves or others because of weapons, things like that. I don't understand it."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.