James D. Walker, 31, was ordered held on $750,000 bail in connection with the deadly crash.
MONTESANO, Grays Harbor County — A Hoquiam man was charged Wednesday with first-degree manslaughter and three other criminal counts in connection with the hit-and-run that killed a man celebrating his 20th birthday at a Grays Harbor County campground.
A judge ordered James D. Walker, 31, held on $750,000 bail during a brief court hearing. Walker is also facing charges of vehicular assault and two counts of hit-and-run, one involving a death and one resulting in an injury.
Law-enforcement officials had been looking for Walker since Saturday, when witnesses say he intentionally ran over and killed Jimmy Smith-Kramer and injured Harvey Anderson at the campground on the Humptulips River off Donkey Creek Road. Both Smith-Kramer, 20, and Anderson, 19, are Quinault tribal members.
Walker was arrested Tuesday and booked into the Grays Harbor County Jail. He was arrested after a tip came in from a Hoquiam police officer who was familiar with him, the Grays Harbor County Sheriff’s Office said.
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According to an affidavit of probable cause filed in support of the charges, Walker told sheriff’s detectives he went to the campground where he was confronted by campers. He said the group advanced on his pickup and he was attempting to drive away when he put the vehicle into reverse and “floored it,” according to the affidavit.
He said he was aware there were people near the pickup, the affidavit says.
Walker told detectives he had been drinking, according to the affidavit.
Grays Harbor County Prosecutor Katie Svoboda had requested bail of $500,000, saying Walker was a flight risk. She said he had tried to alter his appearance as well as that of his pickup after the crash.
She said his criminal record includes a 2008 conviction for second-degree theft.
Grays Harbor County District Court Judge Kyle Imler set bail at a higher amount of $750,000. He also appointed Public Defender Geoff Arnold as Walker’s attorney.
Imler set a felony preliminary hearing for June 28.
Earlier Wednesday, Svoboda said hate-crime elements in any of the charges against Walker were unlikely despite the tribe’s contention the incident was racially motivated.
“I have not seen anything that backs that up,” she said Wednesday morning. “What I’m understanding was that (racial-slur claims) was third- or fourth-hand information. Again, I have not read their statements, but at this point I don’t see charging that.”
However, she can file additional charges if more information becomes available.
At least one tribal youth who witnessed the fatal hit-and-run has told tribal officials that the suspect shouted racial slurs and “war whoops” during the incident. Quinault Indian Nation President Fawn Sharp stood behind the youth’s account Tuesday, noting that investigators didn’t thoroughly interview that witness.
The Sheriff’s Office is also investigating the involvement of three passengers who were in the pickup with Walker during the incident. All four live in Hoquiam.
Walker’s uncle, Robert Strasbaugh of Bremerton, released a statement, apologizing to the victims’ families. He blamed the “very tragic incident” on “a few seconds of wrong thinking.”
Smith-Kramer was celebrating his birthday early Saturday morning at the campground with eight or nine others when he was killed. A fisherman and a father of twin toddlers, he played basketball, football and ran track at Taholah High School.
Before Wednesday’s hearing, Quinault Indian Nation Vice President Tyson Johnston told reporters outside the courtroom that Walker’s arrest “brings a small amount of relief” to the victims’ family members and the tribal community.
“But that relief is short-lived,” Johnston said. “This is something that will take a long time to heal from.”