A 27-year-old homeless Navy veteran fatally shot by Huntington Beach police last month beat an 80-year-old benefactor to death just days before the conflict with cops, authorities said Tuesday.
Dillan Tabares is suspected of fatally beating Richard Darland about 5 p.m. Sept. 19, in the 7800 block of Ellis Avenue, Huntington Beach police Officer Angela Bennett said.
The motive is unclear, but Darland had taken an active interest in helping Tabares get help for his substance abuse problems and providing shelter and food for the transient, Bennett said.
Darland, who was an Army veteran, lived in Huntington Beach for more than 25 years and was active in his church, Bennett said. He and his wife were married for 53 years. Darland sustained a broken back, multiple skull fractures that punctured his brain, broken facial bones and severe internal injuries, Bennett said.
"It was an absolutely brutal beating," she said.
Investigators were able to link Tabares to the crime when Orange County Crime Lab officials detected the victim's blood on Tabares' pants, Bennett said. Thanks to new technology, called rapid DNA, investigators were able to make the link more quickly than in the past.
Darland "provided (Tabares) with food and transportation to reconnect with his family, and he allowed him to sleep outside his house," Bennett said. "He also tried to connect him with rehab and get him involved in his church."
Police were combing through surveillance video footage and Darland's phone for clues when they realized that Tabares was among the victim's 1,300 contacts, Bennett said. That led investigators to ask the crime lab to see if the victim's DNA was on Tabares' pants, she added.
The only witness to the beating was a child who is in elementary school, Bennett said. Tabares had a lengthy criminal record dating back to 2014. Huntington Beach police had arrested him 12 times since 2014, Bennett said. He was sentenced to 10 days in jail May 9, 2014, after pleading guilty to possession, manufacture or selling of a deadly weapon.
He pleaded guilty on May 4, 2015, to disturbing the peace, fighting and resisting arrest, both misdemeanors, and was sentenced to 50 days in jail. Tabares pleaded guilty on Nov. 2, 2015, to carrying a knife and possession of drugs and was sentenced to a month in jail.
He pleaded guilty on May 2, 2016, to battery with serious bodily injury, a felony, and was initially sentenced to 180 days in jail. Tabares violated probation and was sentenced to 90 more days on Sept. 15, 2016. He was sentenced on Dec. 19 to 90 more days in jail on a probation violation. Tabares pleaded guilty on July 26, 2016, to possession of drug paraphernalia and was sentenced to 60 days in jail.
He was sentenced to two years in prison on March 16, according to court records. But he was released by Sept. 14, five days before Darland was killed, Bennett said.
His family has told reporters he struggled with depression and marijuana addiction and was discharged from the Navy in 2012. Tabares was shot about 9:30 a.m. Sept. 22 outside a 7-Eleven store at 6012 Edinger Ave. He got into a scuffle with an officer, which triggered the shooting, police said.