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Judge releases one suspect in WSU assault

Joshua W. Nantz, 23, a WSU student arrested in connection with an assault of WSU professor David Warner, a faculty member at the Department of Critical Culture, Gender and Race Studies, appears in court Thursday at Whitman County Superior Court in Colfax. (Tyler Tjomsland)
Joshua W. Nantz, 23, a WSU student arrested in connection with an assault of WSU professor David Warner, a faculty member at the Department of Critical Culture, Gender and Race Studies, appears in court Thursday at Whitman County Superior Court in Colfax. (Tyler Tjomsland)

Police are looking for two other suspects in case

No booze, bars or taverns – that’s what a judge told a Washington State University senior when he released him Thursday pending a first-degree assault charge in an attack on a WSU instructor.

Joshua W. Nantz, 23, spent the night in jail after he was arrested by Pullman police detectives Wednesday night in connection with his alleged involvement in the brutal attack on David Warner, an instructor in the Department of Critical Culture, Gender and Race Studies.

The remaining suspects, identified in court documents as Robert Bean and Matt Soriano, both 22, have not been interviewed by authorities, prosecutor Bill Druffel said. Pullman police officers arrested 21-year-old Madeline A. Fouts after they received an anonymous letter from Western Washington indicating Fouts was a suspect as well as Bean and Soriano, according to documents filed in Whitman County Superior Court. Fouts was released Wednesday night after being questioned by authorities.

Bean and Soriano agreed to meet Pullman detectives at Mukilteo Police Department at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Pullman police Chief Gary Jenkins said, but they didn’t show. If the two suspects are not found overnight, a warrant will be issued for their arrest, Jenkins said.

Jenkins said Nantz’s release made it imperative detectives make contact with Bean and Soriano quickly before they have a chance to speak with each other. No contact with the other suspects was a condition of Nantz’s release.

The attack left Warner in critical condition for nearly two weeks. A portion of his skull was removed in surgery, court documents said. Warner’s condition was upgraded from critical to serious Thursday morning, according to Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center staff.

Warner’s recovery is uncertain, and he will likely have a “severe mental handicap,” detectives wrote after speaking with medical staff.

Brenda Day, who has known Warner since grade school in Pullman, said Warner is now awake and can physically respond to questions. His family remains by his bedside.

“That family has gone through so much,” Day said. “But they are very strong people.”

Judge David Frazier said there’s enough evidence to charge Nantz, but the student lacks a criminal history and is unlikely to reoffend or flee the area. He cited Nantz’s close ties to family in Mukilteo and a college education that’s nearly finished. Nantz is allowed to visit his family in Western Washington under his release conditions, but he must not leave Washington and North Idaho, the judge said.

Charges have not been filed against Nantz, Whitman County prosecutor Bill Druffel said. He has until Tuesday morning to file charges, but he was holding off until more witnesses come forward and investigators arrest Bean and Soriano.

Surveillance footage recorded during the assault shows 30 to 40 witnesses, Druffel said, but most have not come forward.

“I want those people to come forward and tell me what they saw,” Druffel said. “I want to hear as much as we can before we make a decision.”

Pullman investigators believe that before the assault, Warner’s friend Lawrence McDonald was making unpleasant comments to people walking past the Adams Mall parking lot, court documents said. Nantz, Bean and Soriano walked past Warner and McDonald minutes before the attack, and footage shows they interacted. Fouts joined the male suspects and they watched the two men for a few minutes before they approached McDonald and Warner.

Witnesses told detectives there was yelling between the two groups and an argument ensued. Warner tried to intervene and he was punched by one of the suspects. The other two men tackled Warner and McDonald to the ground.

Fouts’ boyfriend, Tanner May, told detectives he knew the suspects and met them after the assault, court documents say. The suspects told May of their involvement in the assault, but May couldn’t recall details.

Nantz agreed to turn himself in Wednesday evening, but declined to give a statement, court documents show.

Warner and McDonald had been drinking before the attack, and investigators believe the fight escalated because of alcohol consumption in both parties.

Frazier warned Nantz to take his release conditions very seriously because he’s seen many young people arrested because of alcohol-related incidents.

“They’re ordered to not consume alcohol and they violate and they can’t believe I keep putting them in jail,” Frazier said.

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