(CNN) — An 88-year-old World War II veteran was brutally beaten and left for dead by two teens outside a lounge in Spokane, Washington, where he loved to go play pool.
The motive? Police don’t have one. The teens appeared to have picked Delbert Belton at random, authorities say.
Friday morning, police announced a juvenile had been arrested by Spokane police in connection with the death. The suspect has been charged with first-degree robbery and first-degree murder.
Belton, a retired aluminum company worker, served in the Pacific. There, friends say, he took a bullet in the leg during the Battle of Okinawa.
He survived that attack.
But Wednesday night, Belton — affectionately called “Shorty” by friends for his height — headed to the Eagles Lodge where he was a regular.
Police found him in the parking lot, with serious head injuries. He died Thursday.
“It does appear random,” Spokane police Lt. Mark Griffiths told reporters. “It appears he was assaulted in the parking lot and there was no indication that he would have known these people prior to the assault.”
“We were mechanic buddies,” said 42-year-old Ted Denison, who was a long-time friend of Belton’s. “We just kind of kicked right along.”
But the friends also hung out together outside the garage.
“We went dancing on Saturday nights,” Denison said. “We went out to breakfast together.”
Belton stopped by the Eagles Lodge two or three times a week. He played pool, but by his own admission, wasn’t too good at it.
“He went up there and played pool, met with some of the guys he used to work with at Kaiser Aluminum,” where he was employed more than 30 years, Denison said.
His wife died several years ago. The WW II vet is survived by a son, 65.
Waiting for a friend
Wednesday night, Denison was outside the lodge waiting for a friend because he didn’t want her to walk home alone, Lillian Duncan told the Spokesman-Review newspaper.
“He was so awesome,” Duncan told the paper. “Anybody that didn’t get to know him missed out on a wonderful angel in their life.”
Officers used K-9 search dogs to search for the suspects, swept for fingerprints on the chain link fence in the area where they were last seen headed, and scoured through surveillance tapes.
Outside the lodge Thursday, friends and strangers alike left flowers, flags and messages for Belton.
Belton never had problems outside the lodge before — no threats, no altercations, Denison said.
“If he had, I would have made sure I was there.”