Just three days after what some believe was the racially-charged murder of 20-year-old Quinault member Jimmy Smith-Kramer in Washington state, a suspect who matches the description given by witnesses to the crime has been arrested by the Grays County Sheriff’s deputies.
An unnamed 31-year-old Hoquiam, Washington man was arrested on suspicion of second-degree murder. His white 4x4 pickup truck was seized as evidence, a press release from the Grays Harbor County Sheriff's Office stated.
Witnesses say Smith-Kramer and a friend were intentionally backed over by a white truck Saturday at a campground near Hoquiam, Washington. They were part of a group celebrating Smith-Kramer’s birthday.
Jimmy Smith-Kramer, 20, of Taholah, died at the hospital. Harvey Anderson, 19, of Aberdeen, was recovering at home Monday after initially being listed in critical condition.
Despite the Quinault Nation’s belief that the crime was racially-motivated, law enforcement officials told The Seattle Times Tuesday they’ve found no evidence to support that claim. “We haven’t found one person, including the surviving victim, who has been able to tell us that there were any racial slurs thrown out during this incident,” Grays Harbor Undersherriff Dave Pimentel said, estimating that nine or 10 people had been interviewed.
The Quinaults still believe otherwise. “The account in our press release is a firsthand account from a tribal youth,” Quinault Indian Nation President Fawn Sharp told The Times. “She was there and related to us her eyewitness observation.”
Officers were searching for a man described as in his 30s with dark hair and a trimmed beard driving a late 1990s Chevrolet pickup. The man drove to the campground near Donkey Creek about 1:30 a.m. on Saturday and began aggressively driving. Witnesses said a rock was thrown at the vehicle while the driver was spinning in circles, while the Quinault Nation says a rock was thrown after the truck struck the two victims.
Anderson spoke to TV station KING-5 about the ordeal and the aftermath of the incident.
"It still hasn't really hit me. I'm still wondering why this happened," said Anderson to KING-5. "We were out camping for Jimmy's birthday. We were all just out there having a good time, enjoying life. And this white truck pulls up and they want to party and hang out and we're like dude, we're not partying. Then they start spinning doughnuts and acting crazy. Then he hit his reverse lights and was going 20 mph in reverse, and Jimmy turned around and ran and tried to save me, like tried to get me out of the way," he said. "It was within five minutes, ten minutes, this all happened. We were just minding our own business camping."
Smith-Kramer is regarded as a hero by his tribe for pushing his 19-year-old friend out of the way as the truck backed over them and then sped away—all the while screaming racial slurs and war whoops, according to the Quinault Nation’s witness.
Anderson said it was only after the driver hit him and Smith-Kramer that one of their friends threw a rock at the truck, in an effort to stop the vehicle from leaving the scene. "After all of this happened, my friend grabbed a rock and threw it at the truck and chased it all the way up the hill, all the way back up before he lost sight of the truck," he told KING-5.
Smith-Kramer was employed as a commercial fisherman. His family has decided to donate his organs.
See initial story here: Quinault Member Jimmy Smith-Kramer Killed.
Cary Rosenbaum (Colville Confederated Tribes) is a correspondent for Indian Country Media Network. Follow him on Twitter: @caryrosenbaum