Editor's note: This is a republished article in memoriam of Quinault Member Jimmy Smith-Kramer, killed on May 28, 2017.
Two Quinault tribal members in Washington state were run over by a truck in what Quinault Indian Nation officials believe was a hate crime that resulted in the death of Jimmy Smith-Kramer, who was celebrating his 20th birthday at the time. Jimmy Smith-Kramer was injured on Saturday and died from his injuries on Sunday May 28th.
“[The driver] was screaming racial slurs and [stereotypical war cries] when he ran over the two tribal members,” states a tribal press release from May 28.
Jimmy Smith-Kramer who lived on the Quinault Reservation in Taholah, Washington was camping at Donkey Creek near the Humptulips River Campground when a vehicle showed up around 1:30 a.m. and began aggressively maneuvering with screeching tires while doing doughnuts.
At this point, specific details are unclear, but the altercation turned serious when Jimmy Smith-Kramer and his friend were threatened with being hit by the truck. The Quinault Nation says Smith-Kramer potentially saved the life of his friend, 19-year-old Harvey Anderson, by pushing him to safety as the vehicle approached. Smith-Kramer died from his injuries at Tacoma General Hospital.
Law enforcement are still searching for the driver, who is believed to have intentionally backed over Jimmy Smith-Kramer and his friend. He’s described as a white male in his 30s with dark hair and a neatly-trimmed beard. The vehicle is described as a white 1990s Chevy. Witnesses say a white female accomplice in her 30s who was overhead attempting to stop the driver, according to KOMO News. They are investigating the case as a homicide and are seeking the public’s help.
“Our entire tribe is distraught over this incident,” Quinault tribal President Fawn Sharp said in a statement. “We work hard to be good friends with our neighboring communities. If it is, in fact, determined that this was a hate crime it will add even more distress and sadness to our loss of this outstanding young man and the injury of another.”
Law enforcement officials interviewed all the witnesses at the incident location and none mentioned racial slurs, Grays Harbor County undersheriff David Pimentel told the Associated Press. However a statement from the tribe contradicts this.
One witness said a rock was thrown at the truck -- though reports conflict on whether it was before or after the truck hit Jimmy Smith-Kramer, and it possibly broke a window, Grays Harbor County Sheriff Lt. Brad Johansson told The Seattle Times Monday. The Quinault Nation, however, disputes the suggestion that the hurled rock prompted the attack by the driver. Though witness statements conflict, the release from the tribe states the rock was thrown “after two men had been run over.”
“This should be a first-degree murder charge under the felony-murder doctrine, which does not require the element of premeditation,” Sharp said. “Under that doctrine, one can be charged with first-degree murder when during the course of committing a felony, there’s a death, even if under ‘accidental’ or reckless circumstances. There is simply no excuse or defense to this unthinkable tragedy. If it’s a hate crime it could help assure that it would be triggered as a felony or trigger aggravating circumstances at sentencing.”
Sheriff’s officials are following up on multiple tips, according to the Associated Press. The Quinault Indian Nation is offering a reward to a person or persons who personally knew the suspect and are willing to work with law enforcement to testify and help prosecute the defendant(s), according to a press release.
Individuals who have information related to the incident are asked to contact the Grays Harbor County Sheriff’s Office at 360-533-8765.
A GoFundMe account has been set up in Smith-Kramer’s memory. As of Tuesday morning, more than $1,100 has been donated with 1,100 shares on Facebook. It was created as Smith-Kramer was in critical condition. “We are asking for all prayers that we can get,” organizer Makenna Roiko said.
Smith-Kramer is a father of twin toddlers that one Quinault tribal member says are about two-years-old.
Cary Rosenbaum (Colville Confederated Tribes) is a correspondent for Indian Country Media Network. Follow him on Twitter: @caryrosenbaum.