The 7-Eleven in Huntington Beach where a policeman shot Dillan Tabares dead on Friday after a fight captured on camera carried on with its normal business on Monday morning. Around the corner, Tiffany Tabares, Dillan's mother, sat on a blue mat next to where her son slumped up against the store after being shot several times. Votive candles and flower bouquets decorated the curbside makeshift memorial. An enlarged photograph of Dillan overlooking the Straight of Gibraltar when he served in the United States Navy rested in the middle. "His name was Dillan," the photo reads in black marker.
But who was Dillan Tabares? The few minutes where a person's life ends in a police shooting can often be the final destination of a long and troubled road. Tiffany spoke about her son's battles with mental illness, but declined to elaborate further on his life at this time. Brandon Tabares, Dillan's 33-year-old brother, started a Change.org petition aimed at reforming police training in deescalation tactics and more readily recalls memories of his slain brother. "I know Dillan made mistakes leading up to his demise," Brandon says. "That doesn't change the fact that I want to make sure that this never happens to anyone else's family in the future. We have a systemic problem here."
The Tabares family grew up in Long Beach before moving to Huntington Beach. Dillan parents divorced and his Filipino-Guamanian father passed away at a young age. Tiffany sobered up and worked hard to give her kids the best life she could. Dillan turned to punk rock in his adolescent years and sported black paint on his fingernails. The music helped him cope with a childhood trauma; Dillan was molested at a young age by someone Brandon considered father figure and served time for the crime.
Dillan attended Fountain Valley and Marina High Schools but didn't graduate. He started his career with the Navy after scoring phenomenally well on tests and served as an information systems technician. "When it came to his understanding of the way that things worked, he had a beautiful mind," Brandon recalls. But he also had a troubled one. Dillan spent time in youth shelters during his childhood. He still managed to build a decent life in Norfolk, Virginia with a career in the navy, a wife and a house—until everything unraveled.
During the last three years of his Navy career, Dillan began smoking pot after his marriage became strained. Testing positive for marijuana use cost him his national security clearance. The Navy hospitalized him for mental health reasons next. Everything led to an other-than-honorable discharge. "At that point, it became severely downhill from there," Brandon says. "He didn't have the Navy backing him. He didn't have his wife backing him." But he still had his big brother. The two sold their possessions and spent six months backpacking around together.
When time came to return to society, friends helped bring the Tabares brothers back to Orange County where they got jobs and lived everyday lives. Mental health struggles and drug abuse never really eased up on Dillan, though. "We've gone to blows many times with me trying to peel back the drugs and all the surface level things he was hiding behind in hopes that I could see my little brother again," Brandon says. He began suffering from delusions of grandeur as evidenced by incoherent ramblings posted on Facebook that Brandon is deciding to keep online to center the conversation on mental health.
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When Dillan had a falling out with a girlfriend five years ago, he decided to live on the streets, a lifestyle he kept up on-and-off again until his death. He had run-ins with Huntington Beach police prior to Friday's fatal encounter. Brandon checked in on his little brother frequently and always invited to take him back in. The socks sticking out of Dillan's pockets when he was shot? Those came from Brandon, who always made sure he had a clean pair.
Brandon had his own run-in with a cop when he solicited donations at Newport Center for the Nature Conservancy on Friday. A store owner disliked his activities and police arrived shortly after. He says Newport Beach police intimidated him. "Don't reach for your phone too quickly, I'd hate for you to make me nervous," he claims a cop told him. Later that day, Brandon learned his little brother died in a police shooting.
"When I saw a video of a man being shot in Huntington Beach around Edinger where my brother hangs out who looked just like him, I immediately stopped doing everything that I was doing," Brandon says. He called authorities that day who eventually confirmed it was his younger brother. Now the family is raising money for funeral expenses and hopes the Navy will help inter him in a mausoleum once provided with his discharge papers. At the memorial site, Tiffany also says she's been given contacts for a number of law firms and Brandon adds that the family has every intention of pursing legal recourse.
"Dillan made no threatening gestures, and in that moment, the police officer decided to take his life," Brandon says of when the officer backed up before shooting. "To be honest, if I could have taken those bullets, I would have."