Second suspect arrested in death of WWII veteran

The Associated Press- Updated: August 26, 2013 at 12:57 pm • Published: August 26, 2013 0

SPOKANE, Wash. — Spokane Police on Monday arrested a second teen suspect in last week's beating death of an 88-year-old World War II veteran who authorities say likely fought back against his attackers.

The second suspect was arrested without incident early Monday morning at a friend's house in Spokane, police said. The first suspect turned himself in last week.

Both suspects are 16-years-old and face charges of murder and robbery in the death of Delbert Belton last Wednesday.

"The two individuals we believe are responsible for the robbery and murder of Mr. Belton are in custody," Police Chief Frank Straub said at a news conference on Monday morning.

Belton, who was wounded in the battle for Okinawa, was beaten to death in his vehicle as he waited for a friend in the parking lot of an Eagles Lodge in north Spokane.

Straub said it appeared that Belton fought back against his attackers, and that may have contributed to the severity of the beating his received.

Nevertheless, "I encourage people to fight back" when attacked, Straub said.

A 16-year-old boy surrendered to authorities last Thursday night, and is in the Spokane County Jail. His identity has not been released because he is a juvenile.

The second suspect, also a 16-year-old boy, was arrested in a basement apartment in Spokane just after 3 a.m. Monday. His identity and photograph were released as police searched for him, but The Associated Press, which typically does not identify juveniles accused of crimes, is no longer using his name because he is in custody.

Three other juveniles with him were arrested for investigation of rendering criminal assistance, a felony, Straub said.

Straub said police received a tip early Monday about the location of the second suspect.

"The motive for this attack was robbery," Straub said. "There is no gang activity associated with this incident."

Belton's wallet was taken, Straub said.

Both suspects have criminal records for assault, Straub said.

Investigators believe the boys targeted Belton randomly as he sat in his car and waited for a friend.

Straub said the case involved twin tragedies.

"It bothers me that a distinguished World War II veteran lost his life," Straub said. But the lives of the young suspects are also likely ruined, he said.

Officers found Belton with serious head injuries on Wednesday night, and he died in the hospital Thursday.

Belton was born and raised in Spokane. He survived being shot in the leg in 1945 at Okinawa, one of the fiercest battles of the war, and went on to spend 33 years working for Kaiser Aluminum before retiring in 1982.

Belton was called Shorty by his friends because he was little more than 5 feet tall, his niece Pam Hansen said.

She believes he was targeted because of his age and size.

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