SPOKANE, Wa. — Police arrested one 16-year-old boy and are looking for another in connection with the beating death of an 88-year-old World War II veteran this week, authorities said Friday.
The arrested teen has been charged with first-degree robbery and first-degree murder. Police said they’re looking for the other suspect, named by police as Kenan Adams-Kinard, 16.
Police said the victim — Delbert Belton — was beaten and left for dead by two teens outside a lounge in Spokane where he loved to go play pool.
The motive appears to be robbery, police spokeswoman Monique Cotton said Friday.
A retired aluminum company worker who served in the Pacific, Belton took a bullet in the leg during the Battle of Okinawa, friends say. He survived that attack.
But on Wednesday night, Belton — affectionately called “Shorty” by friends for his diminutive height — headed to the Eagles Lodge, where he was a regular.
Police found him in the parking lot, with serious head injuries.
The Spokane County Medical Examiner’s Office on Friday said the cause of the death was blunt facial and head injuries. It also said in a news release that the manner of Belton’s Thursday death was homicide.
“It appears he was assaulted in the parking lot and there was no indication that he would have known these people prior to the assault,” police Lt. Mark Griffiths told reporters.
Officers had been using dogs to search for the suspects, swept for fingerprints on the chain link fence in the area where they were last seen headed, and scoured through surveillance tapes.
Spokane Police Chief Frank Straub Jr. said Friday he is “asking for the community’s assistance in helping us to locate Adams-Kinard and bring him to justice.”
“We would encourage Mr. Adams-Kinard to surrender immediately,” Straub said.
‘All there is is bad news’
The randomness of the two attacks was not lost on Ted Denison, who’s been friends with Belton for a long time.
“It’s really depressing,” Denison said late Thursday night. “Seems that all there is is bad news.”
The two men met more than 20 years ago and worked on cars together.
“We were mechanic buddies,” the 42-year-old Denison said. “We just kind of kicked right along.”
But the friends also hung out together outside the garage.
“We went dancing on Saturday nights,” Denison said. “We went out to breakfast together.”
Belton stopped by the Eagles Lodge two or three times a week. He played pool, but by his own admission, wasn’t too good at it.
“He went up there and played pool, met with some of the guys he used to work with at Kaiser Aluminum,” where he was employed more than 30 years, Denison said.
His wife died several years ago. The World War II veteran is survived by a son, 65.
‘It didn’t seem real’
Barbara Belton, Delbert Belton’s daughter-in-law, said in a phone interview that Delbert’s friends first called her about the attack.
The news was shocking and disorienting.
“It’s almost like you’re not really focusing in on what they’re saying,” she said from the Spokane area. “It didn’t seem real.”
Later, she said, an intensive care unit doctor told her that he had been beaten so badly, doctors “couldn’t stop the bleeding.”
She broke the bad news to Belton’s son: her husband, William, who is suffering from cancer and happened to be in the hospital.
“He was upset,” she said. “It’s a terrible way to have to die.”
Asked what she would say to the perpetrators, she said: “What motivates you to do such a horrendous thing to an old man?”
“He didn’t drive a big fancy car. He didn’t dress in expensive clothes. He didn’t have a lot of money. He had very little money,” she said. “What did they think they were going to get from this man?”
Waiting for a friend
On Wednesday night, Belton was outside the lodge waiting for a friend because he didn’t want her to walk home alone, Lillian Duncan told The Spokesman-Review newspaper.
“He was so awesome,” Duncan told the paper. “Anybody that didn’t get to know him missed out on a wonderful angel in their life.”
Outside the lodge Thursday, friends and strangers alike left flowers, flags and messages for Belton.
Belton never had problems outside the lodge before — no threats, no altercations, Denison said.
“If he had, I would have made sure I was there.”
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