The ugliest twist in the slaying of Delbert “Shorty” Belton, the 88-year-old WWII vet who was fatally beaten outside an Eagle’s hall in north Spokane, came yesterday when one of the defendants in the case alleged that the octogenarian was assaulted because he was trying to cheat the two suspects in a crack cocaine deal, according to the Spokane Spokesman-Review.
And today the Internet is being further heated by a remark from Spokane Police Chief Frank Straub two days ago that suggested Belton may have escalated the situation by fighting back, though to read his complete remark that may not be the case.
“Our information is that the individual fought back and that may have made this, you know, a worse situation,” Straub said during a Monday morning press conference. “I’m not being critical of Mr. Belton. We certainly encourage individuals to fight back, and he should have. But it shouldn’t have happened to begin with.”
The chief has posted a statement on the Spokane Police Department website that elaborates on his remarks:
Today, as Kenan Adams-Kinard, the second suspect in the homicide of WWII veteran Delbert Belton appears in court, the Spokane Police Department continues to investigate this tragic incident and is working closely with prosecutors to ensure that justice is served.
"I would like to be very clear regarding comments I made during yesterday's news conference: this terrible tragedy should have never happened. Mr. Belton, a distinguished veteran, deserves to be honored for his service to his country.
“The Spokane Police Department quickly identified and arrested the two individuals believed to be responsible for Mr. Belton’s death. The Spokane Police Department will aggressively pursue any individual(s) who harm or threaten to harm our community.
“When I was asked yesterday about the significant injuries that Mr. Belton sustained, I responded by saying that those injuries were incurred when Mr. Belton fought back against his attackers. Mr. Belton's actions were both appropriate and justified. In fact, I encouraged individuals to fight back against attackers and acknowledged that Mr. Belton was correct in doing so.
“We must also address the fact that two young men engaged in an act of violence that led to the death of a member of our community. We as a city must confront the challenge of youth-involved criminal activity and implement collaborative strategies to address this critical issue.”—Spokane Police Chief Frank Straub
While Straub has clarified his comments, the same opportunity may not be available to 16-year-old Kenan Adams-Kinard, who reportedly claimed in a letter that Belton was a crack dealer. Adding to the outrage, Adams-Kinard’s father, Steven, was reportedly standing by his son’s allegation, insisting that the dead man “poisoned the country and poisoned our kids.”
Police say there is no evidence to support the assertion against Belton, and a friend called it a "smear," the local CB S affiliate reported.
The Daily Mail, covering this story for an international audience, quoted Kinard’s uncle, who reportedly said, “They are building it like these kids just went and beat up an old man, which it didn’t occur like that, but it is all going to come out.”
Belton was not armed when he was brutally attacked. There is some conjecture about what “might have happened” if he had been. He was, according to published reports, beaten with large flashlights.
Adams-Kinard’s letter was reportedly recovered at the house where he was hiding until police caught him and some others, who have also been charged with harboring a fugitive. His defense attorney objected, but the judge allowed the letter into evidence.
The other defendant, Demetrius Glenn, is also 16. Both teens have been charged with first-degree murder and first-degree robbery. Adams-Kinard’s bail was set at $3 million and Glenn’s at $2 million.
According to various published reports, both teens have criminal records that include convictions for assault.