Patrick Casey, GW grad student and Army veteran, dies

Casey spent time in Afghanistan with the U.S. Army. (Photo: Casey family)

A George Washington graduate student and Army veteran who was deployed to Afghanistan died after he tried to prevent a{ }dispute at a McDonald's restaurant, his parents say.

Detectives have used security-camera video to help identify those involved, MPD spokeswoman Gwen Crump confirms.

"They think they know who the suspects are,” she said, later adding, "They think they have a good handle on identifying some of the suspects.”

Police will not release the video.

Patrick Casey died after an incident last week, according to a statement by University President Steven Knapp posted on the GW website. The 33-year-old was earning a master’s degree at the Elliott School of International Affairs. He had just returned from a year-long deployment to Afghanistan.

“We waited those 12 months for a call, we never got it,” his mother Gail Casey said.

Instead, the call his mother Gail and father Paul dreaded during Casey’s deployment came Friday from D.C. police.

His parents say Casey was at a restaurant with friends when three people began arguing inside. Casey and his friends then stepped outside the McDonald's at 1916 M Street.

The three suspects followed them outside, and one of them tried to push Casey's friend, his parents say. Casey tried to intervene and stepped between his friend and the suspects.

“Pat stepped in to help his friend, he wasn't trying to start a fight, he was trying to avoid a fight,” Casey’s father Paul said.

One of the suspects punched Casey in the face, witnesses told police. The parents said their son was "sucker-punched," then fell backwards onto the pavement, injuring his head. He was taken to the hospital but pronounced dead Tuesday.

D.C. police have reportedly identified people in surveillance video caught at the McDonald's and have interviewed them. “We want justice… They stole our son's life,” the parents tell ABC7 News.

Casey hails from a small town north of Albany in New York State. He is described by his family and friends as a “gentle giant,” who during his deployment to Afghanistan pulled some of his fellow soldiers from a burning vehicle after it hit an improvised bomb.

Casey’s friend Jeremy Nivel served with him in Afghanistan.

“You can dodge bullets and IEDs for an entire year, and some punk kid sucker-punches you… it doesn't make any sense,” Nivel said. “I’m in shock. We just can't imagine our friend being gone like this. It’s just awful.”

The university said Casey learned Arabic and Pashto, one of the languages spoken in Afghanistan.

His mother spoke of her son’s dedication to those close to him. “Pat was a very intelligent, wonderful caring person, when you were his friend he would have done anything for you,” Gail Casey said.

The family has begun to make funeral arrangements, university president Knapp said in his statement. George Washington University will hold a memorial service for Casey on Oct. 6 in Veterans Park.

The three suspects fled the scene, witnesses told police. The description of the suspects is limited: All are described as about 6 feet tall and weighing about 180 pounds, but no gender is given.

In police documents, the first suspect is described as wearing a yellow shirt and blue pants, the second one is described as a white person wearing a gray shirt and blue pants, and the third suspect is also described as white.