3 soldiers charged in killing of Joint Base Lewis-McChord soldier
Three soldiers from Joint Base Lewis-McChord were charged Tuesday in the stabbing death of another soldier from the base in Washington state.
Authorities had initially investigated the slaying as a hate crime, but later decided race was not a motivating factor.
Jeremiah Hill, 23, was charged with first-degree murder in the killing of Tevin Geike, 20. Two of Hill’s friends, Cedarium Johnson, 21, and Ajoni Runnion-Bareford, 21, were charged with rendering criminal assistance. All have pleaded not guilty.
“This was a senseless and sad murder where a soldier killed a fellow soldier for no reason,” Pierce County prosecutor Mark Lindquist said in a statement. “Our prayers go out to the family and friends of Spc. Geike. He served our country honorably and it breaks our hearts to see him lose his life in a cowardly street stabbing.”
Geike was assigned to a combat aviation unit, officials said, and the three charged soldiers were assigned to a combat infantry unit. Geike died from a stab wound to the heart, an autopsy showed.
The incident occurred early Saturday morning as Geike and two other soldiers were walking along Pacific Highway. Five other soldiers, including Hill, drove by and, prosecutors said, “someone from the vehicle made an unspecified racial slur towards the men on foot. Witnesses could not recall what was actually said."
The victim and his friends were white; the men in the car were black.
The soldiers in the car stopped to talk to those on the road, but once they found out they were all active-duty soldiers, they separated, authorities said. Hill appeared to give Geike a bear hug and stabbed him twice, prosecutors said, then got back into the car.
“Hill was covered in blood and told the car’s occupants that he ‘cut’ the victim,” the prosecutors’ statement said, adding that Hill told Runnion-Bareford to throw the knife into a bush along the road.
Over the weekend, Hill asked an Army medic to treat a cut on his hand. “Hill told the medic that he suffered the cut ... when he ‘stabbed someone to death,’ ” prosecutors said. At first, the medic didn’t believe him, but he told his sergeant what had happened. The sergeant confronted Hill, who said he’d cut himself while chopping vegetables, police said.
By Sunday afternoon, the sergeant contacted civilian authorities.
Two of the five men in the car are cooperating with police, authorities said. “The two suspects who spoke to investigators said race was not a motivating factor in the assault, and the victim’s friends said that the initial slur was the only race-related language used,” the prosecutor’s statement said.
Authorities said they had recovered the knife as well as bloody clothing.
Hill’s bail was set at $2 million, Runnion-Bareford’s at $250,000. Johnson was released to the base.
Times staff writer Michael Muskal contributed to this report.