October 21, 1995 in City

Teen Gets Year For Attack Beating Robs Elderly Spokane Man Of His ‘Joy Of Living’

William Miller Staff Writer
 

Sixteen-year-old Adrian Washington will spend the next year behind bars for an unprovoked attack on an elderly man that destroyed his “joy of living,” a Spokane County judge decided Friday.

The beating did much more than blacken 81-year-old Peter LaBeck’s eyes and fracture his nose in four places.

LaBeck has been in a life-threatening tailspin since his Sept. 12 run-in with Washington and two other boys, family members said.

Before the beating, LaBeck was a friendly fixture in downtown Spokane - walking to church, visiting a senior center, gossiping with friends, delivering meals to shut-ins.

Now he’s depressed and nearly bedridden in a nursing home, where he requires physical therapy and can only walk if someone helps him.

The retired Air Force sergeant’s strength is failing. Soon, he may have to be fed through a tube.

“He’s lost his way of life,” said one of his five daughters, Stephanie Lynch of Spokane.

“Instead of killing him, they took his soul,” said Margaret Warren, a downtown worker who became one of LaBeck’s many friends.

Washington pleaded guilty to second-degree assault and would have faced 21 to 28 weeks in a state juvenile institution for the crime.

But authorities strongly recommended harsher punishment due to the vulnerability of the victim and his deteriorating condition.

Superior Court Judge Neal Q. Rielly agreed, imposing a 65-week sentence.

“I’m absolutely convinced that unless this young man gets some serious intervention in his life, someone else is going to get hurt,” Rielly said.

That was a reference to Washington’s own testimony, in which the black youth described his rage over being repeatedly slapped with racial slurs.

Washington said he took offense at something LaBeck said that afternoon but he couldn’t remember any of the words.

“All I did was hit him and keep on walking,” the boy said.

“Why did you hit him?” asked his lawyer, Priscilla Vaagen.

“Because he said something to me. It made me mad. I can’t remember what he said. He just made me mad.”

With some prompting from Vaagen, Washington later apologized to the victim and his family.

“I’m sorry that it happened, and I’m sorry for his family, and I’m sorry for him - because he’s suffering.”

But he quickly went on to blame others for the anger boiling inside him.

“After a while, words just get to you,” he said. “It’s like a cup, it can only hold so much water before it overflows.”

The boy’s father criticized the news media for blowing the incident out of proportion and “publicly lynching a 16-year-old.”

George Washington blamed himself for what happened, telling the judge, “I haven’t been there for my son.”

The boy’s criminal record started when he was 11 and was found guilty of malicious mischief, records show. The following year he was caught in possession of a firearm.

Convictions for a pair of thefts, possession of cocaine and fourth-degree assault have followed.

Twice, the youth was required by court order to attend anger-management classes.

Deputy Prosecutor Steve Tucker said Washington’s account of the LaBeck assault is only partially true.

Tucker said Washington leveled the victim with an elbow in front of the Fox Theater at Sprague and Monroe shortly after 3:30 p.m.

Two other boys jumped in to push and kick LaBeck as he writhed on the ground, the prosecutor said.

In an interview two days later, LaBeck said the youths called him “ugly white trash” and suddenly became violent.

Based on descriptions of the suspects, all three were caught a short time later on the north end of the Monroe Street Bridge.

The boys accused LaBeck of yelling racial slurs at them and denied hitting him.

While LaBeck has forgiven Washington, his daughters appealed Friday for the strongest possible sentence to avenge the “savage beating.”

Family members said their father’s medical bills have already topped $20,000, and they fear he may never return to his independent lifestyle.

Rielly said no sentence could restore LaBeck’s crushed spirit.

“What’s the price for his joy of living?” he asked.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: color Photo


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