“He was always the center of attention wherever he went, and people from all walks gravitated to him,” Michael Bushong said.
The family had declined to speak with reporters immediately after Bushong’s killing, which happened on Eighth Street near the Ugly Mug bar and across the street from the Marine Barracks.
Philip Bushong had once served there in the color guard for two years. D.C. police said he was stabbed by another Marine, Michael Joseph Poth, 20, who is stationed there now.
Bushong was in the District days before he was to be honorably discharged from the Marines and planned to move to the area to be with his girlfriend and enroll at George Mason University, family and friends said.
Poth was charged with second-degree murder while armed and was ordered held ahead of a hearing scheduled for May 15 in D.C. Superior Court. A call to his defense attorney was not returned Wednesday.
A court document submitted by police said that Poth told detectives after his arrest that he was waiving his Miranda rights and that he told investigators he was defending himself.
The confrontation happened while Bushong was with a civilian friend on Eighth Street, police said, and an argument began between Poth and Bushong.
“I stabbed him because he punched me in the head,” Poth told police, according to court documents. “There were two of them. I was defending myself.”
During his initial detainment, Poth repeatedly told police that he stabbed Bushong, the court documents said.
A witness, described as an on-duty Marine posted near the scene of the confrontation, told police that he saw Poth and Bushong, who was accompanied by another man, walk toward each other and exchange words, according to the court filing. The Marine said he heard Poth say, “I’m going to stab you” before Bushong grabbed his shoulder.
Bushong moved as though he was going to punch Poth, that witness told police, then Poth thrust a knife toward him. Bushong fell, the Marine said, and two other Marines chased Poth and held him until police arrived.
Another on-duty Marine who helped subdue Poth, found a knife covered with blood clipped to his pants pocket, according to court documents.
Another witness told police about seeing someone matching Poth’s description — “a short, young white male, with short blond hair and blue jeans and tattoos on his arm” — walking in the Barracks Row area before the fight, according to court documents, and heard him say, “I’m going to stab somebody, or cut their lungs out.”
Investigators have said they do not believe that Poth and Bushong knew each other.
Michael Bushong’s statement said that his son, of Lockport, N.Y., was a rifleman who joined up in March 2008. He was born in Dana Point, Calif., according to his father, who described him as a “strong and focused man” and an avid guitarist who took a travel version of the instrument with him when he served on a naval aircraft carrier.
“He was prepared for the rest of his life,” his father wrote. “Optimistic, excited and desiring to make a difference.”
Staff writer Keith L. Alexander contributed to this report.