SPOKANE, Wash. (CBS Seattle/AP) — Police in Spokane, Wash., say they have arrested one of two teens suspected of fatally beating an 88-year-old veteran of World War II who had survived the Battle of Okinawa.
Authorities say the two young African American men, between 16 and 19 years old, approached Delbert Belton in his car at random Wednesday night outside an Eagles Lodge as he was waiting for a friend.
Belton was found by police with serious head injuries and died in the hospital Thursday.
Belton’s daughter-in-law tells KREM-TV that the suspects beat him with flashlights.
“They used those great big heavy flashlights,” Bobbie Belton said. “The doctors said he was bleeding from all parts of his face.”
Spokane Police say they have surveillance images of the attackers — at least one of them has been taken into police custody.
The Spokesman-Review reports Belton was born and raised in Spokane before he joined the Army. Friends say he was shot in the leg during the Battle of Okinawa, where thousands of American soldiers died.
“He was an Army veteran,” Glenn Longsdorff, Belton’s roommate of four years, told KREM. “In fact, he was shot when he was 18-years-old on the beaches of Okinawa. He’ll do anything in the world for anybody.”
After the war, he spent 33 years working for Kaiser Aluminum, before retiring in 1982.
Belton’s sister, Alberta Tosh, told the newspaper her brother “went through hell” during his years in the Army. Though she was too little to remember her brother going to war, she does remember how reluctant he was to talk about the bloody Okinawa battle in 1945.
“I know he came home shell-shocked pretty bad,” she said.
Belton lived a full and busy life, Tosh said. He loved to dance, repair old cars and was always surrounded by close friends and loved ones.
“He was a good guy who would help anybody if they needed help,” she said.
A friend, Ted Denison, said he was planning to go to the Eagles Lodge when he heard Belton had died.
“He put his life on the line for our country to come home and 60 years later? Get beat to death?” Denison said. “That’s not right.”
Denison, a veteran himself, said he used to tease Belton about his membership in the Eagles Lodge, saying that place was for “old fogies.” He didn’t make it to the lodge in time.
“I don’t care who you are, you don’t beat up an old man,” Denison said. “You’re supposed to respect your elders, not beat them to death.”
Another close friend, Lill Duncan, said she can’t imagine what drove anyone to kill him.
“He lived his life every day to make somebody else happy. It wasn’t all about him. It was about what he could do for everybody else.”
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