The defendant charged in a deadly hostel shooting pleaded guilty to a non-homicide charge.
Nathan Hunter, 40, and Ronald McKnight, 44, were at the DC International Hostel in the Shaw neighborhood during the early hours of April 18, 2021, when an altercation broke out between the two in a first-floor communal bathroom that ended with McKnight being shot twice in the head. Hunter later told detectives that McKnight bum-rushed him in the bathroom that night, which caused the initial altercation.
According to the prosecution, Hunter fired warning shots with a gun later proved to belong to him.
Although Hunter was initially charged with second-degree murder while armed in relation to the homicide, DC Superior Court Judge Milton Lee only found probable cause for voluntary manslaughter while armed during a preliminary hearing in March. On May 16, Hunter pleaded down to assault with a dangerous weapon, sparking anger from McKnight’s family.
“Who brings a gun to a fistfight?” McKnight’s sister said in a victim impact statement. The sister focused her statement on what she found to be inaccuracies with the case.
While Hunter could have the right to retaliate if it is proven that McKnight started the altercation, the prosecutor alleged during the preliminary hearing that Hunter failed to abide by the duty to retreat law that exists in Washington.
“I have a lot of concerns about the amount of effort that has gone into establishing intent,” she said.
His sister said portions of the case that were not looked into, including how the events played out.
“The defense has presented this case on my brother being this erratic person,” she said, explaining that McKnight had neurological disabilities, which caused him to act differently than a typical person. His sister said he was consistently using PCP to limit the side effects of his medications and this combination caused McKnight to appear calm and tired.
Her concerns also focused on evidence, including the six credit cards that were in McKnight’s Sierra backpack with him at the hostel. His sister had this backpack in the courtroom during her statement.
McKnight was working two jobs and was having difficulty finding a place to live, hence him staying at the hostel.
Hunter also said he yelled out for help amid the altercation, but McKnight’s sister disputed this.
“He yelled so loud nobody heard it,” she said. “He yelled for help multiple times, but nobody heard it.”
The two were in the bathroom for over 30 minutes, but it is not clear who had possession of the gun first, according to court documents. The prosecutor said during the preliminary hearing they could not know for sure who had the weapon first.
Multiple other family members were also at the hearing, with two cousins speaking.
“His character was truly assassinated in this courtroom,” one of the cousins said. “There were so many facts about it that were not truly presented.”
Hunter was scheduled to go on trial for voluntary manslaughter while armed in August but decided to accept the plea offer instead. Parties have agreed to a 51-month sentence for the charge. Judge Lee will announce if he will the deal during the next hearing on July 22. In the meantime, Hunter will remain detained at DC Jail.