UPDATED: Marine Killed in Possible Hate Crime

Witnesses say fellow Marine suspect claims self defense in Barracks Row stabbing

By John Riley
Published on April 24, 2012, 1:23pm | Comments

A Marine from Camp Lejeune, N.C., was fatally stabbed in Southeast Washington early Saturday, April 21, following an altercation with another Marine who allegedly used a homophobic slur before attacking the victim.

According to a press release from the Metropolitan Police Department, forwarded by Capt. Edward Delgado of the MPD's Special Liaison Unit, which includes the Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit (GLLU), police from MPD's First District responded to a stabbing in the 700 block of 8th Street SE, at approximately 2:41 a.m. Saturday. This strip of 8th Street is known as Barracks Row, named for the Marine Barracks on the block, also home to several restaurants and bars.

Upon arrival, police found the victim suffering from a stab wound. Information uncovered during the preliminary investigation indicated the victim and suspected assailant were engaged in a verbal altercation during which the suspect used an anti-gay epithet.

D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services personnel transported the victim, identified as Philip Bushong, 23, to Washington Medstar Hospital where he was pronounced dead at 3:58 a.m. An autopsy by the D.C. Medical Examiner revealed that Bushong had been killed by a single stab wound that had punctured his heart, and ruled the manner of death a homicide.

Police arrested 20-year-old Michael Joseph Poth of Southeast D.C., who has been charged with second-degree murder while armed.

According to charging documents, a Marine on post at 8th and G Streets SE saw Poth walking southbound on 8th Street SE, while Bushong and a companion were walking north. As their paths crossed, Poth exchanged words with Bushong, prompting Bushong to turn around and follow Poth.

The Marine who witnessed the incident told police that Poth said, ''I'm going to stab you.'' The witness said he saw Bushong grab Poth's shoulder and Poth motion with his hand as if he was going to throw a punch. The witness also told police that Poth had a knife in his hand and thrust it into Bushong, causing him to fall to the ground. The witness then yelled for two other Marines to detain Poth, which they did.

According to the charging documents, the second and third witnesses saw the confrontation between the two men, chased Poth and detained him. One of those men told police that when he detained Poth, Poth had a knife clipped to his right front pants pocket that was closed and covered with blood.

A fourth witness, referred to as ''it'' in the charging documents, told police that a short, young white male, with short blond hair and blue jeans, and tattoos on his arm, had been walking in the area of 8th Street around 1:30 or 2 a.m. The witness heard the man say, ''I'm going to stab somebody, or cut their lungs out; they are fucking with the wrong person.'' The fourth witness's description matches Poth's appearance.

According to charging documents, even after Poth was detained at the crime scene, he let loose a string of statements such as ''Call me boots and the fight started,'' ''Marines control me and my brain,'' ''You start with me and I'm going to defend myself,'' ''He was talking shit, so I stabbed him,'' and ''He punched me in my face, so I stabbed him.'' After overhearing a radio transmission about Bushong being transported to the hospital, Poth allegedly said, ''Good, I hope he dies.''

When interviewed by Metropolitan Police, Poth told them he stabbed Bushong because Bushong had punched him in the head, and that he was defending himself. According to police, he pointed to his head where he had supposedly been punched, but detectives did not report any wounds or abrasions, and Poth did not request any medical treatment.

On April 22, OutServe, the association of actively serving LGBT U.S. military personnel, issued the following statement: ''We are deeply saddened by the death of Lance Corporal Phil Bushong at the hands of a fellow Marine. We are troubled by the specter that this might have been a hate crime; if so, we anticipate the authorities will pursue it to the fullest extent of the law.

''This is particularly upsetting since, overall, gay and lesbian Marines have been accepted and treated equally in the force since the repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell.' We look forward to the results of a swift and thorough investigation of this tragic incident.''

Bill Miller, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia, said the U.S. Attorney's Office will be prosecuting the case.

Appearing in D.C. Superior Court before Judge Karen Howze, Monday, April 23, Poth was held without bond as he awaits his preliminary hearing, which has been scheduled for May 15.