Authorities are investigating the deadly stabbing of a Marine as a possible hate crime, after a witness heard the alleged assailant -- another Marine -- use an anti-gay slur during the attack, police told

Lance Cpl. Philip Bushong, a 23-year-old rifleman with the 2nd Marine Division, was stabbed to death early Saturday in Washington, D.C. 

Police say his attacker, 20-year-old Pfc. Michael Joseph Poth, stabbed Bushong once in the chest with a pocket knife after an argument in a neighborhood near the Marine barracks in Southeast Washington. Bushong later died from his wound at a nearby hospital. 

A witness reported to police that Poth was heard using a "homophobic slur" during the altercation, prompting authorities to consider classifying the stabbing as a possible hate crime.

"It is under investigation to determine if it qualifies as a hate crime," Metro Police Lt. Robert Alder told

Alder said there is no indication that the two Marines knew each other prior to the attack. Bushong, originally from Lockport, N.Y., was based at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. Poth is stationed in Washington.

Alder said his department has sent along information on the crime to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, which will ultimately decide whether to pursue hate crime charges. 

Poth, who was arrested and charged with second-degree murder, awaits a preliminary hearing on May 15. 

The Associated Press reported that Poth told police he was acting in self-defense during the altercation. Alder would not confirm that report. He noted that Poth had "no obvious injuries" when police arrived on the scene. 

Bushong, who joined the Marine Corps in March 2008, was promoted to lance corporal in June 2009, according to the Jacksonville Daily News. He was the recipient of the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal and the National Defense Service Medal, the newspaper reported.