Friends, family mourn WWII veteran beaten to death in Spokane, Wash.
Glenn Longstorff finds it painful to recall the last moments of his close friend and roommate, Delbert “Shorty” Belton.
Belton was outside Spokane’s Eagles Lodge Wednesday night, sitting in his green ’94 Ford Contour and waiting for his girlfriend to arrive. Belton and his girlfriend were going to play pool together, Longstorff said.
At some point after 8 p.m., Belton was assaulted. Police say two teenagers robbed and beat the 88-year-old, then fled. His girlfriend found Belton – bloodied but still responsive – and ran for help, screaming as she went.
Belton was taken to Sacred Heart Medical Center Wednesday night, where Longstorff and friends waited by his side. Hours later, the World War II veteran died.
“The way they beat him and how they beat him – it’s absolutely terrible,” said Longstorff, 62, a former railroad worker who has rented a room from Belton for the past five years. “Everybody’s just appalled. Man’s not supposed to kill man.”
Spokane police confirmed Friday that a 16-year-old, was taken into custody in the killing. Police identified the second suspect, also 16, who was on the loose.
“We would encourage [the suspect] to surrender immediately,” Spokane Police Chief Francis Straub Straub said in a statement.
The Spokane Police Department released the name and photo of the at-large suspect on the department’s Twitter feed and news reports identified the name of the teenager currently in custody. It is the policy of the Los Angeles Times not to identify juveniles accused of crimes unless they are being tried as adults.
The fatal beating, which investigators described as random, has elicited an outpouring of grief and sadness among Belton’s friends and the Spokane community.
Eagles Lodge, a popular Spokane watering hole that Belton frequented, became the site of a makeshift memorial on Friday with candles, flowers and military insignia. A candlelight vigil was scheduled for 8:30 p.m. Friday at the Eagles Ice-A-Rena, adjacent to Eagles Lodge.
By all accounts, Belton was a kind and generous man whom many called a friend. Longstorff said Belton enjoyed fixing up old cars and giving them away.
Almost every morning, Belton met friends for coffee at Spokane’s Sportsman Cafe and Lounge, and he was known around the local Veterans Affairs Medical Center for chatting with patients and joking with staff.
Belton was drafted when he was 18 and served in the U.S. Army during World War II. He was shot in the leg on the beaches of Okinawa, but Belton preferred not to discuss his time in the military, friends and family said. After recovering from his injuries, Belton returned to Spokane and worked for more than 30 years at an aluminum-manufacturing plant before retiring.
Barbara Belton recalled her father-in-law as a sociable man who sought solace in his friends after his wife, Myrtle, died nearly six years ago. His death, she said, is both shocking and confusing – especially because he would be the last person targeted for a robbery.
“He didn’t dress fancy,” Barbara Belton said, adding that he always drove older, modest cars. “Why these kids thought he had some money, I don’t know.”
Belton is survived by his son, two grandchildren and a great-granddaughter, according to his daughter-in-law. Funeral arrangements were pending.
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