In a shocking turn of events, Huntington Beach Police Chief Robert Handy revealed that authorities have connected Dillan Tabares, a 27-year-old man fatally shot by one of his officers in a September viral video, to a brutal homicide of an elderly man just days earlier. The news came during a press conference at City Hall earlier today where Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas also addressed the media. The investigation by Huntington Beach police detectives into the beating death of 80-year-old Richard Darland intersected with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department’s probe into the officer-involved shooting through DNA sample matches.
On Sept. 19, 2017, police responded to a call on Ellis Avenue near Beach Boulevard in Huntington Beach when they happened upon a gruesome scene. “When our officers arrived, they found an elderly man down in front of his house with significant injuries,” Handy said. “Despite valiant efforts by bystanders, police officers and firefighters to provide medical aid, the victim died of his injuries.”
The beating left Darland with little chance of surviving. He suffered multiple fractures to the neck, back, ribs, face and skull. “This is one of the most brutal beating deaths many of us have ever seen in our law enforcement careers,” Handy said. During the homicide investigation, a detective searched Darland’s phone contacts and came across Tabares’ name after the 7-Eleven police shooting happened. The detective concluded the two first met each other in 2013 when Darland offered his home to Tabares, who lived on the streets at the time.
Chief Handy described Darland as a long-time Huntington Beach resident, an army veteran, and a church-going retiree dedicated to helping the homeless. He offered Tabares, a troubled Navy veteran fallen on hard times, food, rides and a place to sleep at the side of his home while inviting him to seek Christianity. Darland even tried to reconnect him with his family and urged the troubled man to enter a drug rehab facility. While the detective patched together the relationship between Darland and Tabares, other detectives reviewed surveillance videos near the murder scene that placed Tabares there shortly before and after the crime.
Three days after the Darland murder, an unnamed patrol officer stopped Tabares outside a 7-Eleven. Handy stated that his officer was immediately attacked and attempted to deescalate the situation. With the police shooting still under investigation, the police chief couldn’t divulge other details, but noted his officers arrested Tabares 12 times since 2014 for suspected drug and alcohol violations as well as possession of dangerous weapons. The last arrest came in March when police took him in on warrant for felony battery. Tabares spent time in prison for the crime, but was released before serving his full two-year sentence.
Five days after stepping out a free man, Tabares brutally beat Darland to death. Both Handy and Rackauckas criticized early prison release policies in light of the homicide.
“We can offer a potential motive for Tabares’ unprovoked and sustained violent attack on our officer which we believe may have been motivated by Tabares’ desire to avoid going back to prison,” Handy said. “At the time of the contact with our officer, Tabares knew that he’d violated his parole, had a warrant for his arrest and just committed a homicide three days before.” The officer didn’t know any such information at the time of the shooting.
“Once Tabares’ name surfaced in the homicide investigation, the Huntington Beach Police Department requested that the Crime Lab examine the evidence collected by the Sheriff in the shooting investigation, in particular the clothing,” Rackauckas said during the press conference. Blood stains on Tabares’ pants weren’t consistent with his gunshot wounds. The OCDA took samples of the clothing for rapid DNA analysis.
“The DNA from the pants from the shooting victim matched the DNA from the murder victim,” Rackauckas said. “That confirmed that the shooting victim was the murderer.”
What motivated Tabares to brutally beat Darland to death with his fists and feet will remain unknown. Both men are now dead.