HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. — A homeless Navy veteran who was fatally shot by police during a violent encounter outside a California convenience store had beaten his 80-year-old friend to death days earlier, authorities said.
It took about a month for detectives to follow leads and tie the two cases together, Huntington Beach police Chief Robert Handy said Tuesday during a news conference.
Dillan Tabares, 27, was shot Sept. 22 after confronting an officer, punching him and grabbing for his belt, Handy said. Tabares died at the scene.
The incident — much of which was recorded on video — is still under investigation.
Investigators believe Tabares repeatedly kicked and punched Richard Darland three days earlier outside Darland’s house. He suffered a broken back, broken neck and skull fractures that punctured his brain. He died at a hospital.
“This is one of the most brutal beating deaths many of us have ever seen in our law enforcement careers,” Handy said.
Investigators found Tabares’ name among the victim’s cellphone contacts and surveillance footage showed him near Darland’s home before and after the attack, the chief said.
Police later learned that some blood found on Tabares’ pants after he was shot by the officer belonged to Darland, the Orange County Register reported.
Police have not identified a motive in the beating. After meeting Tabares in 2013, Darland, a retired engineer and U.S. Army veteran, was trying to help the homeless Navy vet who had struggled with drugs.
“Darland provided food, transportation and allowed Tabares to sleep on the side of his home,” Handy said
He also tried to get Tabares reconnected with his family, even driving him to his brother’s home. Darland also attempted to get Tabares into a drug rehab facility and wanted to introduce him to Christianity.
Darland is survived by his wife and two daughters.
Police haven’t said why the officer was at the 7-Eleven on the day Tabares was shot. On one video of the incident, the officer is seen backing away and seems to ask Tabares to “have a seat,” according to the Register.
Instead, Tabares moves toward the officer and punches him. The officer gets the suspect in a headlock, and after they fall to the ground and struggle, Tabares grabs something from the officer’s utility belt. The officer gets free and shoots Tabares seven times.
Handy said Tabares had been arrested 12 times since 2014 for offenses such as alcohol and drug violations, resisting arrest, battery causing injury and disturbing the peace.
Information from: The Orange County Register, http://www.ocregister.com