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2nd suspect arrested in fatal beating of WWII veteran in Spokane

Unrest, Conflicts and War

A second teenage boy was arrested early Monday in the fatal beating of an 88-year-old World War II veteran outside a lounge in Spokane, Wash., police said.

According to officials, the case began when calls came in to police shortly after 8 p.m. Wednesday, with witnesses reporting an assault outside Eagle’s Lodge, a popular gathering spot that offers bingo, poker and pool.

Officers arriving on the scene found Delbert Belton inside his car with serious head injuries. He was transported to a local hospital, where he died, police said.

Monday’s arrest came several days after police released images of two possible suspects in the beating, obtained from surveillance video taken from local businesses.

One teenager was taken into custody around 10 p.m. Thursday, but authorities had been searching for the second suspect until his arrest around 3 a.m. Monday. In a statement, police said the suspect was arrested “without incident” in a basement apartment at 500 West Montgomery Ave. in Spokane.

News reports have named both suspects, but Los Angeles Times policy is not to identify juveniles accused of crimes unless they are being tried as adults.

A probable-cause affidavit has been filed with the Spokane County Juvenile Court, requesting charges of first-degree murder and first-degree robbery for the suspect arrested Thursday, officials said. In the statement on the latest arrest, Spokane police said the second suspect was taken into custody under the same circumstances.

The statement said, “Several other people ... have been arrested for rendering criminal assistance.” Spokane Police Chief Frank Straub is expected to hold a news conference on the case later Monday morning.

Meanwhile, the killing has stunned friends and family and sent shock waves through the city. Belton served in the Army during World War II and was wounded by gunfire in the Battle of Okinawa. After completing his military service, he worked at an aluminum plant for more than 30 years.

Friends called him "Shorty," and it was the company of his friends that helped him cope with the death of his wife, Myrtle, about six years ago, said Barbara Belton, his daughter-in-law.

She described his death as “horrendous” and said she has struggled to make sense of his death.

For one thing, she said, he didn't look like a man of means, and his car -- a 1994 Ford Contour -- was anything but flashy.

"He didn't dress fancy," she said. "Why these kids thought he had some money, I don't know."

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Twitter: @mattstevensLAT

matt.stevens@latimes.com  

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