Veteran shot and killed by California police battled drugs, failed Navy career

Dillan Tabares, a Navy veteran who alluded to his failed military career as a catalyst for his drug problems, was shot and killed in Huntington Beach by police officers.


By SCOTT SCHWEBKE | The Orange County Register (Tribune News Service) | Published: September 26, 2017

HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. – Dillan Tabares, shot and killed by a Huntington Beach policeman last week during a violent confrontation outside of a 7-Eleven, struggled with drug abuse and a failed military career, his brother said on Monday.

The 27-year-old Huntington Beach native served in the U.S. Navy until he left with “less than an honorable discharge,” Brandon Tabares said.

Dillan Tabares enlisted in July 2008 and rose to the rank of information technology systems technician seaman E-3, Navy spokesman Cullen James said.

He received the Navy’s National Defense Service and the Global War on Terrorism Service medals. He left the Navy in April 2012; James said he wasn’t permitted to disclose if Tabares left the military on good terms.

In a March 2012 Facebook post, Dillan Tabares seems to allude to difficulties he faced in the Navy.

“At the beginning of this year I had a four-bedroom house and three cars,” the post says. “A good job and a future. Now I have nothing but my freedom, which will soon be taken away.

“I have ruined everything,” the post goes on to say. “I have lost the future I have worked so hard to get over these last four years. Now everything is gone. Top-secret security clearance gone, $45,000 dollars for school gone, the three different IT certification(s) I was working on will now go uncompleted.”

Brandon Tabares said his brother, toward the end of his Navy stint, began to use marijuana heavily to battle depression and a failed marriage.

After Dillan Tabares left the Navy, the two backpacked around the U.S. and then returned to Southern California where they lived together.

Eventually, Dillan Tabares started using methamphetamine and began living on the street, his brother said.

He was known among other transients as “the boy in the woods,” because he often hung out in Huntington Central Park, which has a lot of trees and he also liked to frequent secluded areas, his brother said.

He did like to hang out as well at the Huntington Beach Public Library, where he could read books and use the internet, Brandon Tabares said.

The last time Brandon Tabares saw his brother was in November, when he invited him once again to live at his Costa Mesa house. He held a welcome home party for him that didn’t go as planned.

“All my friends were very accepting of him, but it didn’t click,” Brandon Tabares said.

He wasn’t surprised that Dillan Tabares fought with the Huntington Beach officer before being fatally shot.

“Dillan is not the type of person to get in your face and start a confrontation with you, but if you come up to him he has no qualms about defending his existence,” he said.

Friday’s violent encounter, captured by at least two witnesses’ videos, occurred at the store across the street from Marina High School, which Dillan Tabares attended.

In one nearly two-minute video, posted on YouTube and apparently taken from inside a parked vehicle outside of the 7-Eleven, DillanTabares can be seen advancing toward the officer, who has a weapon drawn, possibly a Tazer.

The officer, backing away, appears to say, “Have a seat,” but Dillan Tabares continues approaching and punches the officer twice. Then the officer grabs him in a headlock, both fall to the ground and continue to fight.

Tabares,who is punched several times, grabs something from the officer’s utility belt. The officer gets free and back on his feet and ends up firing seven shots.

Another video shot by a different witness shows Tabares, after being shot, turning and leaning back and falling against the window of the 7-Eleven, with a dark object appearing to fall from one of his hands as he collapses to the ground.

The officer wasn’t injured.

Brandon Tabares said he isn’t sure why his brother acted aggressively toward the officer, but he speculated he may have grown weary of living.

“Maybe Dillan was tired of being the boy in the woods, and maybe he wanted to move to something more beautiful,” he said.

Police haven’t said what possibly prompted the confrontation, why the officer was at the 7-Eleven, or whether Tabares had a weapon.

Huntington Beach Police Chief Robert Handy has said the officer tried to subdue the suspect with a Tazer. The chief added it appears the officer was justified in using deadly force because he was being attacked.

©2017 The Orange County Register (Santa Ana, Calif.)
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