MONTESANO, Wash. – James Walker, 31, appeared in a Gray’s Harbor County courtroom one day after being arrested in Hoquiam.
Sheriff’s deputies arrested Walker in connection to a deadly hit-and-run crash that killed one person and seriously injured another over the holiday weekend.
Walkers’ family told Q13 News they believe the crash was only a tragic mistake. The suspect faces manslaughter, vehicular assault and hit-and-run charges.
Prosecutors asked Judge Kyle Imler to set a high bail in the case, claiming Walker took steps to elude authorities and fearing he could be a flight risk. Prosecutors alleged Walker not only tried to hide and repair the damaged truck after the accident but also altered his appearance to escape capture.
On Tuesday deputies said they took Walker’s truck into evidence after they found it partially hidden behind bushes near a Hoquiam neighborhood.
Robert Strasbuagh told Q13 News he is Walker’s uncle and his family had no idea the suspect was connected to the crash.
“This is a very tragic situation that was not 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,” Strasbaugh read from prepared comments. “The family does not condone this situation and at this time is shocked and bewildered as so many in the community are.”
Prosecutors allege Walker was behind the wheel when he drove recklessly in an area of campers, igniting a confrontation early Sunday morning north of Humptulips. Investigators believe Walker drove his truck over two Quinalt residents; injuring 19-year-old Harvey Anderson and killing 20-year-old Jimmy Smith-Kramer.
Quinalt Indian Nation tribal councilmembers released a statement Wednesday saying witnesses heard racial insults and language during the incident.
“We take the opinions and statements of our citizens very seriously,” said council Vice President, Tyson Johnston.
Grays Harbor County Sheriff Rick Scott told Q13 News evidence of racial bias had not been uncovered during questioning of suspects and witnesses.
“None of the people that we`re talking to are saying they heard anybody saying anything that had any racial undertones directed towards to the kids on the gravel bar of the people in the truck,” said Scott.
Walker has a criminal background with a conviction for felony theft and reckless driving. Local police were familiar with him, said Sheriff Scott, adding a Hoquiam police officer helped investigators identify the suspect and vehicle.
Judge Imler set bail at $750,000, Walker is expected to make another court appearance in late June.
Sheriff Scott said detectives also identified three passengers who were allegedly in Walker's truck during the crash. He said criminal charges for them would be determined by county prosecutors.