MONTESANO, Wash. — James Walker, 31, of Hoquiam, appeared in Grays Harbor County court Wednesday, accused of driving a pickup truck that backed over two men at a campground, killing one and injuring another.
County sheriff’s detectives arrested Walker on Tuesday night in connection with the deadly hit-and-run at the Donkey Creek Road Campground in Humptulips on Saturday night. He is being charged with first-degree manslaughter, vehicular assault, hit and run-death, and hit and run-injury.
Prosecutors asked the judge to set a high bail of $500,000, claiming Walker took steps to elude authorities and they worry he’s a flight risk. Prosecutors alleged he not only tried to hide and repair the damaged pickup truck after the accident, but that he also altered his appearance to escape capture.
The judge actually went beyond the prosecutor’s recommendation and set a $750,000 bail.
Meanwhile, Walker's family told Q13 News they believe the crash was only a tragic accident.
Robert Strasbaugh, Walker's uncle, said, "This is a very tragic situation that was not a malicious act by any way, but was a very tragic incident where a few seconds of wrong thinking has changed so many lives where alcohol appears to be involved. The family does not condone this situation and at this time is shocked and bewildered as so many in the community are."
According to court records, the county sheriff's office said that sometime between 12:30 a.m. and 1 a.m., an older, white Chevy pickup with large tires arrived at the gravel bar near the site where the victims were camping. A witness said the pickup did a "donut" on the gravel bar and then drove away. The witness said the truck then returned and did more donuts. It began to leave again, but then stopped and began to back up on the gravel bar toward the campsite.
At this point, the witness said she heard someone yell, "Someone got hit." And the pickup left.
The witness said she saw two males lying on the gravel bar, and was later told that James Smith-Kramer and Harvey Anderson had been hit by the pickup. Smith-Kramer, 20, died from his injuries; Anderson was injured but is recovering.
According to the court records, Walker was later arrested and admitted to sheriff's detectives that he had stopped his truck at the campsite and "was confronted by campers. He states that they began to advance on his truck and he was attempting to flee. However, the defendant admits he put the vehicle into reverse and 'floored it.' He did this knowing that individuals were in the immediate area of his vehicle. The defendant also admitted that he had been drinking..."