KOMO: A 20-year-old active-duty soldier was stabbed to death in a parking lot at the 12500 block of Pacific Highway Southwest around 2:30 a.m., officials say.
Three soldiers were walking from Joint Base Lewis-McChord along Pacific Highway SW when a group of men in a car drove by and someone inside shouted a racial comment toward the white soldiers, the Lakewood Police Department said.
“One of the soldiers yelled back something about the suspects treating combat soldiers with disrespect,” Lt. Chris Lawler said.
The vehicle turned around, and five black males got out of the car and confronted the soldiers, according to reports. As the verbal confrontation ensued, the driver of the vehicle realized the men were actually combat veterans and called his friends off. While the men headed back to their vehicle, one of the suspects appeared to have bumped into the victim, witnesses say.
The soldiers saw their friend fall to the ground as the car sped away. The victim was bleeding profusely from a stab wound and died at the scene.
“We came down here, and he was already dead in my brother’s arms,” said Glenn Zimmerman, a friend of the victim.
Friends say there was a party at the Biltmore Motel that evening, and the victim was gathering with family and friends after being discharged from the military. Zimmerman said the victim’s contract was up, and he was celebrating serving his country.
“I don’t understand how someone can do this – that man, he almost gave his life for people to enjoy the freedoms they have and he was just stabbed for no (expletive) reason,” he continued.
The initial remark that started the encounter seemed derogatory in nature, said Lakewood police Lt. Chris Lawler. He said it was too early to say that race was the motivating factor, but investigators were exploring whether the killing should be classified as a hate crime. “We are certainly considering it, for sure,” Lawler said.
Police are searching for a midnight blue BMW-type sedan or VW Jetta-type car with four doors, tinted windows and stock rims, and low profile tires. The main suspect is believed to be in his early 20s, about 6’1″, medium build, and was wearing a blue zip-up hoodie. The driver was described as having short cropped hair, and wearing a blue and white horizontal striped shirt.
Detectives were in the area Saturday looking for businesses or others who might have video from around the time of the stabbing. Lawler said the person who stabbed the soldier should come forward and show remorse now.
“He’s going to get caught,” Lawler said. “Nobody’s going to give up until we catch up.”