(Reuters) - One of the two Washington state teenagers accused of murdering a World War Two veteran said he beat up the survivor of the Battle of Okinawa after the 88-year-old man tried "ripping him off" in a drug deal, court documents in the case said.
Kenan Adams-Kinard, 16, made the statement to friends as he was being sought in the beating death of Delbert "Shorty" Belton, according to an affidavit filed by a Spokane police detective in support of a criminal complaint against the suspect.
Adams-Kinard said he "was trying to buy an ounce of crack cocaine from 'Shorty' and 'Shorty' tried ripping him off," the affidavit said in paraphrasing an account related to police by an unidentified witness. Adams-Kinard said he then punched Belton and took his money back, the affidavit said.
Spokane police declined to comment to Reuters about the affidavit, but NBC News quoted a police spokesman as saying there was "no evidence to support" the allegation that Belton was dealing drugs.
Adams-Kinard and his accused accomplice, Demetrius Glenn, also 16, have been charged as adults with first-degree burglary and first-degree murder in Belton's slaying.
A friend, Natalie Flom, who had planned to meet Belton for a game of pool at a north Spokane fraternal lodge last Wednesday, found the U.S. Army veteran in his car in the parking lot with severe head and facial injuries.
Belton, who survived a gunshot wound to the leg during the Battle of Okinawa as Allied forces launched an assault on one of the home islands of Japan in 1945, died the day after he was found in the car.
The affidavit said police also seized a handwritten letter that Adams-Kinard allegedly wrote to his mother that likewise said the crime was a drug deal gone sour.
"I took his wallet and another ounce of crack from his pockets. He was unconscious, so I made sure he was still breathing, and then I took off," the affidavit quoted the letter as saying.
Flom dismissed as absurd the suggestion that her elderly, diminutive friend was a cocaine dealer.
"Shorty had a great sense of humour and would be laughing" about Adams-Kinard's account, Flom told Reuters. "But it is so sick that anyone would try to pull his reputation down."
Security videotapes and photographs from the lodge and surrounding businesses led investigators to identify the teenagers as suspects, police said.
Glenn turned himself in the day after the attack, and Kinard-Adams was arrested four days later hiding out in the basement of a Spokane apartment building, police said.
Glenn was being held in lieu of $2 million bond, and Adams-Kinard's bail was set at $3 million, a higher figure because he was already established as a flight risk, according to a spokeswoman for the Spokane County prosecutor's office.
Reporting by Keith Coffman in Denver; Editing by Steve Gorman and Peter Cooney