The Washington Post

Delbert Belton, World War II veteran, beaten to death in Spokane; police arrest 1 suspect

Police in Spokane, Wash., have made an arrest and are searching for a second suspect in the slaying of Delbert Belton, an 88-year-old World War II veteran who was wounded at the Battle of Okinawa. Police say the attackers beat Belton and left him to die in his car earlier this week:

Delbert Belton, nicknamed “Shorty” by his friends for his 5-foot-tall stature, was waiting for a friend Wednesday night at the Eagles Lodge on 6410 N. Lidgerwood St. Two men approached him in his car at random and beat him, police said. He was found with serious head injuries and was transported to the hospital, where he later died.

“I was going to surprise him last night and show up there, then I got the phone call telling me he was dead at Sacred Heart,” said Ted Denison, a friend of Belton. . . .

Denison knew Belton for about 23 years. The two met when Denison repaired Belton’s car. The pair found a shared passion for fixing old cars and have been close ever since. They’d visit for coffee almost every day, and when Denison didn’t return Belton’s calls he’d keep calling to make sure he was all right.

“After my dad passed away he was kind of like my dad,” Denison said. “I can’t fathom somebody doing this to him.”

Denison’s a veteran himself, serving in the Iran-Iraq War in 1988. They didn’t talk much about their wounds or their time overseas; it was too hard, Denison said.

“Being a vet myself, I don’t talk about stuff like that either,” he said. “It’s painful for him to talk about it.”

Denison occasionally teased Belton about his membership in the Eagles Lodge – it was for “old fogies,” he said. But the night his friend died, Denison was planning on visiting there for a round of pool. Timing didn’t bring Denison to the Eagles Lodge until police had surrounded the scene.

His best friend was gone.

The Spokesman-Review

Police say they have surveillance footage of two assailants, who they believe are young men between the ages of 16 and 19. Neither suspect has been identified.

Max Ehrenfreund writes for Wonkblog and compiles Wonkbook, a daily policy newsletter. You can subscribe here. Before joining The Washington Post, Ehrenfreund wrote for the Washington Monthly and The Sacramento Bee.

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