SPOKANE, Wash. - WWII veteran Delbert Belton survived being wounded in action during the Battle of Okinawa only to be beaten and left for dead by two teens at the Eagles Lodge in Spokane on Wednesday evening.
Belton, 88, succumbed to his injuries Thursday morning at Sacred Heart Medical Center.
Witnesses say Belton was in the parking lot of the Eagles Lodge at 6410 N. Lidgerwood, adjacent to the Eagles Ice-A-Rena, around 8 p.m. Wednesday when the two male suspects attacked him as he was about to head inside to play pool.
Police responded with K-9s to track the suspects' scent but were not able to locate them.
"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 said.
Belton died from his injuries Thursday morning at Sacred Heart Medical Center.
"Shorty," as he was known by his friends at the Eagles Lodge, served in the U.S. Army in the Pacific during WWII and was shot in the leg during the Battle of Okinawa. He went on to work at Kaiser Aluminum at the company's Trentwood plant for more than 30 years. Belton's wife passed away several years ago.
He loved playing pool, even though he claimed he was no good at it and had been a member of the Eagles Lodge for the last four months. In addition to playing pool he loved working on cars.
Shorty was Ted Denison's best friend of 23 years; the two played pool occasionally and worked on cars daily.
"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."
He was the kind of nice old man who'd become your friend in minutes.
"Probably every time I come into town, he'd have a project for me to do," Denison said. "I thought of him more as a dad than I did a friend really."
Now, with the suspects still at large and the Spokane Police Department working to track them down, Shorty's friends are hoping for justice.
"I don't understand how somebody could do this. I really don't," Denison said.
Spokane police are looking for two male suspects in the attack. They said the suspects are African Americans between 16 and 19 years old. One suspect was described as heavy set and wearing all black clothing. The other was described as being about 6 feet tall and 150 pounds. There was no description of what clothing the second suspect was wearing other than a silk do-rag.
Police investigating the deadly attack on Belton have also obtained surveillance footage from the scene. Click this link
to see still images of the two suspects in the attack.