BONNEY LAKE, Wash. — There are conflicting stories surrounding an attack that has an entire community on edge.
A man was arrested after a Bonney Lake teen was stabbed in the woods. But a friend of the suspect now says it was self-defense.
The stabbing happened in a popular wooded area behind a busy shopping center.
The 38-year-old suspect is in the Pierce County jail.
Jacob Kerth admits that he and the suspect have been living in the woods behind the Bonney Lake Fred Meyer. He says they are living there because they have no home.
And he insists his friend stabbed the teen to protect himself.
"He is not a violent person," said Kerth.
These woods are popular with locals who often use it as a shortcut.
Kerth says the suspect is a friend who was defending himself against the group of teens.
"Those kids threatened him," Kerth said, "in the same way they threatened me."
He says the teens are upset with them and how they are living.
"I basically had to jet the other way," he said. "(They said) 'you're gonna die.' "
He said he was treated that way "because I'm homeless."
Bonney Lake police say the suspect did get into an altercation with a group of teenagers walking through these woods just before midnight Wednesday.
Eighteen-year-old Tyson Lawes, a former standout athlete at Bonney Lake High school, was stabbed. He was admitted into intensive care.
"I've known Tyson since he was about his age," said Andre Dickson who says he has known the Lawes family since moving Bonney Lake in 1998.
The attack on Lawes has hit the entire community hard because of the popularity of these woods and their proximity to a busy shopping center.
"You can't walk through here even on the outside where it's not shaded," said Dickson. "People that walk through all the time that are vagrants or whatever. And again it's not really homelessness, I don't think. To me it's more a drug issue."
But Jacob Kerth says homelessness -- "people around here don't like homelessness" -- and the public's response to it is the issue.
"We need to help the homelessness," he said. "We don't need to be threatening them and telling to leave the town, the town that I grew up in. I mean I'm being told to leave or I'm going to die."
The suspect is being held in the Pierce County jail. He does have a long rap sheet for mostly petty crimes. He likely will make a first court appearance Monday.
Police said the weapon used in the attack has not been found.
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