A Whitman County judge on Friday released the remaining suspects in last month’s assault of a Washington State University instructor.
Pullman police investigators are working to gather evidence from witnesses so Whitman County Prosecutor Bill Druffel can file formal charges against John “Matt” Cabanos-Soriano, 22, Robert D. Bean, 22, and Joshua W. Nantz, 23, for first-degree assault.
The assault was caught on five surveillance cameras pointed at a parking lot in Pullman. A crowd of about 20 to 30 people reportedly saw the March 30 assault, Cmdr. Chris Tennant said, but only two told police what they saw. Investigators have since collected up to ten leads.
“We’re not dealing with hardened criminals here; we’re dealing with young adults and alcohol at various levels,” Tennant said. “We’re dealing with an extremely serious situation.”
Surveillance footage shows one man punching David Warner, a faculty member of the Department of Critical Culture, Gender and Race Studies, and two others tackling him and his friend Lawrence McDonald to the ground.
Medics found Warner unconscious in the Adams Mall parking lot with a severe head wound that required surgery to remove a piece of his skull. He remains hospitalized at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center in serious condition.
A witness told officers that McDonald was making unpleasant comments to people walking past the parking lot, court documents show. Those comments may have contributed to the verbal conflict between the groups, Tennant said, but he didn’t elaborate on what was said.
Madeline A. Fouts was arrested in the case this week, but detectives released her the same day. She told detectives the names of the remaining suspects, but offered only paraphrased versions of what McDonald said with few details.
“People do not remember things the same way and people have various levels of involvement,” Tennant said. “There’s probably only a handful of people or more that could answer these questions with fairly specific clarity – those are the people we want to talk to.”
One of the witnesses saw the incident from across the street, but the other witness told officers little except the altercation was over “stupid stuff,” Tennant said.
Surveillance footage shows at least one person taking photos or video of the incident with a cellphone, Tennant said, but that person has not come forward.
Detectives have a lead on another witness who has video or photos from the incident, but they haven’t seen the footage yet.
Court documents describe McDonald as extremely intoxicated, and he told detectives he couldn’t remember anything after about 1 a.m.
If charges are not filed against Nantz by Tuesday or against Bean and Cabanos-Soriano by Wednesday, they do not need to appear for their April 19 court date.
But under state law, charges can be filed up to three years after the assault depending on the circumstances.
“Since the break in this case, many people have come forward, and we’re getting new information all the time,” Druffel said. “I need that to continue so we can make a careful and deliberate decision.”
All three suspects were released Friday morning because they lacked a criminal history, Judge David Frazier determined, and they were not likely to flee the area.
Bean dropped out of his community college courses to handle the pending case, defense attorney Steve Martonick said. He turned himself in at the Whitman County Sheriff’s Office in Colfax around 9:20 a.m. Friday, according to a Pullman Police Department news release. Cabanos-Soriano surrendered to detectives at Pullman Police Department around 2:30 a.m.