TACOMA — Police have arrested three Joint Base Lewis-McChord soldiers in connection with the stabbing death of a fellow soldier in Lakewood Saturday morning. One of the three may be charged with murder, Pierce County prosecutor Mark Lindquist said Monday.
All soldiers involved in this incident were assigned to the 7th Infantry Division at JBLM.
According to police, Army Spc. Tevin Geike, of Summerville, S.C., was walking with two friends early Saturday morning along Pacific Highway SW in Lakewood. Geike’s friends told police a group of five men in a blue sedan yelled at them and they yelled back about disrespecting combat veterans.
Police said the five men in the car pulled over to confront Geike and his friends, but the driver of the car told his acquaintances to leave the scene once they discovered Geike was a combat veteran.
“There was minimal discussion once they figured out everybody was active-duty soldiers,” said Lakewood police Lt. Chris Lawler. “One of the guys in the group of the suspects said, ‘Come on guys lets go, these guys are cool, let’s leave.’”
However, one of the men stabbed Geike to death as his friends were leaving. The five men then fled the scene. Geike was pronounced dead when emergency crews arrived.
Police said they’re still not sure what the motive was in the stabbing.
Spc. Brian Johnson, a friend of Geike, was at the scene when the stabbing occurred and watched as his friend died.
Referring to the suspected killer, Johnson said Monday, “You were a traitor, you betrayed your country. At some point you served your country and now you’ve killed a man that was doing the same.”
But police say one man didn’t walk away — Pvt. Jeremiah Hill, 23, of Chicago, allegedly bear-hugged Geike and stabbed him.
“I was with Tevin as we were walking back,” said Johnson. “I was with him as he died.”
Police said Hill, Pfc. Cedarium Johnson, 21, of Tyler, Texas, and Spc. Ajoni Runnion-Bareford, 21, of Islesboro, Maine, were booked into Pierce County Jail Monday morning. Two other men apparently present at the stabbing were interviewed but not arrested, police said.
Lindquist said only Hill will be facing a possible murder charge; cops say he told a JBLM sergeant he had stabbed someone to death.
“He (Hill) had cut his hand during the assault and asked one of his fellow soldiers for aid,” said Lawler. “When he did, the other soldier asked how he cut his hand. He said, ‘Well, I stabbed and killed somebody over the weekend.’”
The other two suspects may be charged in connection with helping Hill after the incident, said Lindquist.
Emotions ran high at the murder scene, but Geike’s friends are happy to hear about the arrests.
“I hope that they serve him with the worst kind of justice that there is, I really do,” said Geike’s friend Ramona Benningfield. “They deserve every piece of it.”
As for why Hill would stab a fellow soldier and leave him to die on the sidewalk, investigators are puzzled.
“We don’t know,” said Lawler. “The suspect that stabbed the soldier to death elected to not make a statement. He asked for an attorney, which is his right. We didn’t get it from him, and his friends in the car didn’t know why it occurred either.”
Hill, Johnson, and Runnion-Bareford are scheduled to be in a Pierce County courtroom Tuesday.
Police said they located the murder weapon at a wooded location in Tillicum late Monday afternoon. An organized search was conducted and the weapon was located in the area where it was reported to have been discarded
Geike’s friends promise to hold a vigil in Lakewood where he died at 8 p.m. Friday.