Police today said the stabbing death of a white Army soldier allegedly at the hands of a group of African American comrades was not a hate crime–despite witnesses claiming they called him a ‘cracker’ during the confrontation.

Tevin Geike, 20, was left for dead in a parking lot near his base in Lakewood, Washington, in the early hours of Saturday morning and three soldiers have been arrested over the killing.

In the hours after the stabbing, police said they believed the attack was racially motivated because it was claimed some of the assailants–a group of five black men–called Tevin a ‘cracker’, a racist term for a white person.

But Lakewood police officers today said they no longer believed the killing to be a hate crime following the arrests and speaking to everyone they believed were involved.

All the suspects are from Joint Base Lewis-McChord and served in the same combat infantry unit as Tevin.

The accused are Jeremiah Hill, 23–the alleged murderer–Cedarium Johnson, 21; and Ajoni Runnion-Bareford, 21. Two others are still being sought.

Ajoni Runnion-Bareford

Ajoni Runnion-Bareford

Speaking exclusively to MailOnline, Tevin’s mother Jennifer Rose fought back the tears as she said that she had got a text from her son just hours before his death saying he was going to get a tattoo to celebrate his military graduation.

She said: ‘Tevin trusted everybody until they gave him a reason not to trust them. He was really kind-hearted and he would give you the shirt off your back.

‘He absolutely loved being in the military and was looking forward to graduating. He wanted to be an oil rigger.’

Mrs Rose, 39, added, that there was ‘no way’ that Tevin would have said anything racist to provoke his killer.

She said: ‘I have a hard time with that (the racism) because we have some really good friends who are black and we consider them family. It may have been racial from their side but not my son’.

The attack has sparked an outpouring of emotion on Facebook with Tevin’s step-father Dean Rose writing: ‘I love you son and the world is not as good without you in it. You will be missed. RIP son’.

Tevin’s younger brother Jarod wrote: ‘I want to cry but can’t all the tears are gone…feels like a nightmare just want it to end….trying to stay strong is hard when it comes to a family member especially a brother getting murdered.

‘Goodnight Tevin Anthony G love talk to you in a little bit in my dream and in the morning’.

The slaying happened when Tevin and soldier friends Matthew Barnes and Brian Johnson were walking home to Joint Base Lewis-McChord on Saturday morning.

Barnes told KIRO TV that the attackers drove past and one of them in the back shouted ‘something like white and cracker’.

Barnes said he shouted back: ‘So this is how we treat combat veterans now?’

The car turned around and came back and five men got out, surrounding the three friends.

Four then walked away but a fifth walked up to Tevin and ‘appeared to bump’ or ‘bear hug’ him and stabbed him multiple times.

Barnes said: ‘I was sitting there, holding my hand on his chest and then called 911 with my left, screaming at them and telling them exactly where we were and they need to hurry and hurry and hurry.

‘Right before I got off the phone, I couldn’t feel a heartbeat anymore, and he was gone.’

He added that the men were ‘looking for trouble. They were looking for somebody to attack’.

Barnes said: ‘There’s a derogatory term they use for white people, and it’s cracker, and I heard that phrase repeated numerous times which is why I thought race had something to do with it.’

KOMO reported that detectives identified the suspects after another soldier came forward and said that Hill had told him he had killed somebody.

The soldier told his sergeant who spoke to Hill but he denied it and claimed he had been cutting vegetables. Then when he was taken to hospital he claimed he hurt it on a parachute cord.

Under questioning Hill refused to comment and asked for a lawyer.

Lakewood police spokesman Chris Lawler said that after speaking to everyone it did not look like race was a factor.

Tevin was originally from Junction City, Kansas, but grew up in South Carolina and graduated from Stall High School near Charleston in 2010.

He joined the Army two years ago, according to Army records, and at Joint Base Lewis-McChord he was assigned to the 4-6th Attack Reconnaissance Squadron, 16th CAB, as an aviation operations specialist.

In October 2011, he was reassigned to the 2-158th AHB.

During his service Tevin has been awarded the National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon and Aviation Badge.

Tevin will be buried in Junction City, Kansas, where his family are assembling to pay tribute to him.

Also among those already doing so on Facebook was Tevin’s aunt Janinne Gregory.

She wrote: ‘He was a wonderful young man who was working hard to make a good life for himself. He didn’t deserve this.’

On his own Facebook page, Tevin spoke of his love for his country–and how he would die to protect it.

He said: ‘Damn straight service members are dying everyday for our freedom and yet what thanks do they get not a damn thing. I am a soldier in the United States Army and proud of it.’

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