(ABC News) -- Police are investigating whether the fatal stabbing of a solider in Lakewood, Wash., was also a hate crime.
Tevin Geike, 20, was walking with two other soldiers when a group of black men in a car shouted a racial comment as they drove by, the Lakewood Police Department told ABC News affiliate KOMO-TV in Seattle.
"One of the soldiers yelled back something about the suspects treating combat soldiers with disrespect," Lt. Chris Lawler told KOMO-TV.
According to reports the verbal confrontation escalated when the car turned around and the men got out and started to fight the soldiers in a parking lot. The men in the car eventually left after realizing the soldiers were combat veterans, according to witnesses.
During the confrontation Geike was stabbed and he fell to the ground after the car left. He died at the scene.
Glenn Zimmerman, a friend of Geike, said the solider had been celebrating being discharged from the military at a nearby hotel.
"None of this makes and sense," Zimmerman told KOMO-TV. "We came down here, and he was already dead in my brother's arms."
Lawler told KOMO-TV that the initial remark seemed to be derogatory in nature, but it was unclear whether it was related to race or not. However he said investigators were exploring whether the killing should be considered a hate crime.
The suspects were said to be in their 20s and driving a dark blue BMW or Volkswagon sedan with four doors.
"He's going to get caught," Lawler said of Geike's attacker. "Nobody's going to give up until we catch up."