Police in Spokane, Washington are searching for two young suspects after a World War II veteran was severely beaten in a parking lot Wednesday and later died from his injuries.
The Spokane Police Department says in a press release officers responded to reports of an assault Wednesday and found the victim in his car with serious head injuries. He later died Thursday in the hospital.
Authorities on Thursday released surveillance photos of the two suspects, who they describe as African-American males between the ages of 16 and 19.
Friends identified the victim as 88-year-old Delbert Belton, and say he was sitting outside a lodge for the Fraternal Order of the Eagles when he was attacked.
KXLY-TV reports that Belton served in the Army during World War II and was shot in the leg during the Battle for Okinawa.
"He was a tough old bird, I'll tell you that," Ted Denison, Belton's friend for 23 years told the Spokesman-Review.
The station says he went on to work for Kaiser Aluminum for 30 years. Friends say he was known as “Shorty,” and enjoyed playing pool and working on cars. His wife passed away several years ago.
"He was just such a nice person for God's sake. I don't think Shorty had a mean bone in his body," friend Betty told KXLY-TV.com.
"It does appear random. He was in the parking lot, 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," Spokane Police Major Crimes Detective Lieutenant Mark Griffiths told the station.
Denison told KXLY-TV he cannot comprehend how someone could have carried out such an attack. "I thought of him more as a dad than I did a friend really," Denison said.
"He was always there for me when I needed him," Denison said. "We'd joke back and forth. We were always having fun, some sort of fun."
"I don't understand how somebody could do this. I really don't," he told the station.
"Anybody that didn't get to know him missed out on a wonderful angel in their life," Lillian Duncan told the Spokesman-Review.
The Spokane Police Department is asking anyone with information to call their hotline at 456-2233.