(CNN) — At least one black assailant fatally stabbed a white U.S. soldier in a racially charged confrontation over the weekend, police in Washington state said.
Spc. Tevin A. Geike, 20, of Summerville, South Carolina, died after being stabbed early Saturday in Lakewood, not far from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, where he was based, according to base officials.
Police are trying to determine who killed Geike, who they said was walking with two other soldiers in Lakewood after 2 a.m. Saturday when someone in a passing car yelled a comment about them being white.
After one of the soldiers yelled back something about the shouter disrespecting combat soldiers, the vehicle turned around and stopped, and five black men who appeared to be in their mid-20s got out, police said.
The groups exchanged words, and the driver called off his friends when he realized the three were soldiers, police said. But as the five retreated to the car, one appeared to bump into Geike, who fell as the five sped away in the car, Geike's companions told police.
Geike had been stabbed, and he died at the scene, police said.
Investigators are trying to determine whether to classify the stabbing as a hate crime, Lakewood police Lt. Chris Lawler told the News Tribune of Tacoma.
"We're certainly looking at it now as a potential hate crime. We're not going to say that it is, but according to two guys at the scene, it appears to be racially motivated," Lawler told the News Tribune.
Police said they're looking for a midnight blue four-door car, possibly a BMW or a Volkswagen Jetta, with tinted windows, stock rims and low-profile tires.
Geike, an aviation operations specialist, joined the Army in October 2010, the base said.