Authorities in Washington on Tuesday arrested a 31-year-old man suspected of running over a young Native American man in a large truck at a campsite during what tribal members say was a racially motivated incident.
On Tuesday, the Gray's Harbor County Sheriff's Department announced James D. Walker had been charged him with second-degree murder. Police said in a statement that his arrest came about as a result of a tip developed by a Hoquiam police officer "who was familiar with the suspect."
Police said they took a white Chevy 4x4 truck in as evidence and that three passengers — a 27-year-old two Hoquiam women aged 27 and 30, as well as a 29-year-old Hoquiam man — were interviewed, but not charged in the case pending further investigation.
It was around 1:30 a.m. Saturday when the birthday festivities for Jimmy Smith-Kramer turned tragic.
Investigators say the 20-year-old Taholah, Washington, man was celebrating with friends at Donkey Creek near the Humptulips Campground when witnesses said a mid-'90s Chevy pickup truck, white with an extended cab and large tires, showed up and started “doing doughnuts” around the group.
According to the Quinault Tribal Nation — the Native American tribe that many of the young people at the campsite, including Kramer, belonged to — the driver of the truck was yelling “racial slurs and war whoops” at the group.
Witnesses said that the suspect continued to drive erratically while a female passenger, also described as white and in her thirties, screamed at him to stop the truck. Instead, the suspected driver ran over Kramer and another Quinault man, 19-year-old Harvey Anderson.
The next day, Anderson was released from hospital with scratches all over his body, a bruised lung, and a cracked sternum, he told KING5.
“He reversed over us, then went back over us forwards,” Anderson said, describing the incident.
Smith-Kramer, who Anderson said was hit while trying to save him by pushing him out of the truck’s path, didn’t survive.
“We didn’t deserve this. We didn’t deserve any of this,” Anderson said.
Initial reports on the incident claimed that someone in the group of young people threw a rock at the suspect’s truck, breaking a window, angering the driver before Kramer and Anderson were run over. But that information is being disputed by the Quinault Indian Nation, who said on Monday that witnesses told police the rocks were thrown after the two victims were hit.
"The current press reports are causing much grief for our young Quinault youth who witnessed this horrible event every time it is falsely announced," said Larry Ralston, Quinault tribal treasurer, in a statement.
A spokesperson for the Quinault tribe described Smith-Kramer as a “stellar athlete” and “keen hunter” who, after graduating Talohah High School, became a commercial fisherman.
Ralston, who said Smith-Kramer was raised with his daughter and son-in-law since he was 4, said that the young man “died a hero.”