TACOMA — A soldier has been charged with first-degree murder in connection with the fatal stabbing of a fellow soldier in Lakewood early Saturday morning.
Jeremiah DeShaun Hill, 23, is charged with first-degree murder in the slaying of Spc. Tevin Geike, 20, of Summerville, S.C.
Two other soldiers, Ajoni Runnion-Bareford, 21, and Cedarium L. Johnson, 21, were charged with first-degree rendering criminal assistance, according to the Pierce County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. The defendants and Geike are all based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
During an emotional court hearing this afternoon, Hill pleaded not guilty to the murder charge. Pierce County Superior Court Commissioner Meagan Foley set his bail at $2 million. Runnion-Bareford also pleaded not guilty and Foley set his bail at $250,000.
Johnson pleaded not guilty, and Foley allowed him to go free on personal recognizance. He is restricted to Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
According to the affidavit of probable cause outlining the police case, Geike and two others were walking in the 12500 block of Pacific Avenue Southwest around 2:30 a.m. when someone from a passing vehicle yelled “hateful remarks” at them, according to witnesses. One witness could not recall what the remark was, the affidavit says.
But a news release this afternoon from the Pierce County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office characterized the comment as an “unspecified racial slur.”
One of the members of Geike’s group yelled back something about being combat veterans, the affidavit says.
At that point, the car pulled over and four men got out and approached Geike and his friends, the affidavit says.
“When the participants learned that both the walkers and the men in the car were soldiers, some of the men in the sedan backed away and it appeared the incident was over,” the affidavit says.
One of the men in the car, later identified as Hill, then grabbed Geike and threw him on the ground, according to the affidavit. Hill and the other men then got back in the car and drove off.
“At that point the victim’s friend realized that Mr. Geike had been stabbed,” the affidavit says.
Geike died at the scene. An autopsy showed he had suffered a superficial stab wound to the right side and a second wound to the chest that penetrated his heart, according to the affidavit.
Johnson is charged for his role in the escape as well as the disposal of the knife, which was discarded in Tillicum, the affidavit alleges. Runnion-Bareford is also accused of helping dispose of the knife as well as attempting to clean and hide the car, the affidavit says.
Police later found the knife they believe was used in the slaying.
On Monday, Army Spc. Brian Johnson, who was with Geike during the attack, turned aside questions on whether the attack may have been racially motivated, a possibility raised in police accounts over the weekend. According to those initial reports, the suspects, all African American, may have made a comment about Geike and his companions being white.
But Lakewood Police Lt. Chris Lawler said, “It appears from interviewing everyone involved that race was not a motivating factor in this homicide.” Lawler said the two men who were with Hill told police they were surprised their companion attacked Geike, and they did not know why he did it, police said.
Pierce County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Lindquist agreed.
“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.”