MONTESSANO — A 31-year-old Hoquiam man was charged Wednesday in Grays Harbor District Court in the hit-and-run death of a young Quinault tribal member over the weekend.
James Donald Walker, who was held in the Grays Harbor County jail, is charged with first-degree manslaughter, vehicular assault, hit-and-run-death and hit-and-run-injury, records say.
Bail was set at $750,000, according to KING-TV.
He told investigators he had stopped his truck at the Donkey Creek Campground in the Humptulips area and was confronted by campers, court records say.
“He put the vehicle into reverse and ‘floored it,’ ” records say. “He did this knowing that individuals were in the immediate area.
“The Defendant also admitted that he had been drinking on the night in question,” records say.
Taholah resident Jimmy Smith-Kramer, 20, died Sunday after the driver of a truck backed over him and his friend Harvey Anderson of Aberdeen at about 1 a.m. Saturday, court records say.
The tribe credits Smith-Kramer with saving Anderson, who was seriously injured early Saturday morning near the campground. The tribe said in a news release that Smith-Kramer shoved Anderson out of harm’s way.
Anderson, also a tribal member, suffered chest injuries including a broken rib and cracked sternum, court records say.
Grays Harbor Undersheriff David Pimentel said the investigation revealed there were three passengers in the vehicle at the time. He said none went to investigators on their own.
An arrest was the result of a tip developed by a Hoquiam police officer who was familiar with Walker.
After the officer contacted Walker, he “decided to come forward and admit his involvement with this incident,” court records say.
Pimentel said passengers included a 27-year-old Hoquiam woman, a 29-year-old Hoquiam man and a 30-year-old Hoquiam woman.
Pimentel said prosecutors are reviewing reports and that he is expecting charges against the passengers.
Fawn Sharp, president of the Quinault Indian Nation, said the tribe is pleased with the arrest, calling it “another step in a long process of healing for our citizens and — in particular — our young people.”
She said Anderson was released from the hospital and is healing.
She said with Smith-Kramer’s death and the recent death of a tribal elder, this has been a difficult week for the Quinault Tribe.
Her hope is that “wherever the facts lead us, that we get full and complete justice for Jimmy,” she said.
There have been conflicting accounts of what happened that night, she said.
The sheriff’s office said in a news release that campers became upset with the driver, who had been driving recklessly and doing doughnuts, and an argument ensued.
When the driver continued doing doughnuts, one of the campers threw a rock at the vehicle and broke a window, prompting the driver to back his truck over Smith-Kramer and Anderson, Pimentel said.
The tribe disputed that account in a news release that said rocks were thrown only after the two men had been run over.
According to the tribe, the driver was screaming racial slurs and war whoops when he ran over the two tribal members.
Pimentel said witnesses didn’t tell investigators of the driver yelling any racial slurs.
Sharp said the tribe has asked the sheriff’s office to talk again with witnesses and ask specifically about the racial slurs.
“Anytime you bring up something like that, it’s pretty painful in general, but to have conversations about race and bigotry in the middle of a murder investigation is doubly difficult for anyone,” Sharp said.
The tribe has appreciated the sheriff’s office’s work on the case and the “flood of support, prayers and encouragement we’ve received locally and across the country,” she said.
“We’re very deeply touched by that, and that makes all the difference in the world in helping our community heal.”
Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.