More than 80 mourners filled a lakeside park with candlelight Wednesday night as they remembered a 17-year-old Palm Beach Central High School student found fatally shot that morning at a nearby apartment.
The body of Dalton Dobkins was found in a residence at The Estates at Wellington Green, just beyond the Mall at Wellington Green’s southwest border at State Road 7 and Forest Hill Boulevard. Dobkins became the 71st confirmed homicide in Palm Beach County during 2016, according to a Palm Beach Post database, and the second in the village.
Those who knew Dobkins well, including his friends who were in Marine Corps physical training with him, and others who only knew of him gathered to honor him and grieve together. As country music played softly, they lit candles, hugged and sobbed, and asked, “Why?”
Several of the friends wondered how such a thing could happen to the teen they knew as good, athletic and hardworking.
“He seemed like a good kid. It’s crazy,” said fellow student Cole Migdal.
Joseph Martinez, a classmate, said, “He was the kind of person who would do anything for you. He was one of the best kids and never did anything bad or illegal.”
Although the details of why Dobkins was slain were not known Wednesday night, Martinez said various theories are going around the school. One is that someone broke into Dobkins’ apartment to steal the money he was saving to buy a car.
“He rode his bike to work at McDonald’s in the food court at the mall,” Martinez said.
Daniel Acuna and other Marine Corps friends said Dobkins pushed them to try harder and run faster, and to do their best during workouts held each Thursday.
“We were running and I didn’t think I could keep going. I felt two hands on my back, and it was Dalton. He pushed me to keep going. It hit me so hard today,” Acuna said through his tears.
After a prayer asking God for strength to deal with the loss of their loved one, the group sang “Amazing Grace.”
“No one knows anything. It’s so difficult and hard to understand. You put your child down to bed for the night, and then he is gone,” one woman said.
Palm Beach Central Principal Darren Edgecomb broke the news to parents with a recorded message Wednesday afternoon: “It is with a heavy heart that I make this call to inform you about the tragic loss of a beloved Palm Beach Central High School student early this morning.”
Grief counselors were available for students and staff at the school and will be available for the rest of the week, Edgecomb said in his message to parents.
The sheriff’s office said Wednesday it did not believe the shooting posed a danger to the public but disclosed few other details about the slaying, including a possible motive and whether it had identified any suspects of persons of interest.
The apartment complex, a community of two-story buildings, is tucked behind the mall and a gated entrance. About a dozen middle school-aged students gathered by the complex entrance to wait for the school bus Wednesday as investigators finished their work off Wellington Green Drive.
“Did you hear what happened?” one boy asked another. “Someone got shot.”
The first homicide of 2016 in Wellington was a deputy-involved shooting. In June, Roger Ponce, 37, was fatally shot by a sheriff’s deputy after refusing to put down the kitchen knives he was holding in his Wellington home.
In 2015, two women were killed in separate incidents in the village, both stemming from domestic disputes. Wellington has been the site of 11 confirmed homicides since The Post began tracking them in 2009
Anyone with information is asked to contact sheriff’s Detective Jimmy Francisco at 561-688-4169 or Crime Stoppers of Palm Beach County at 800-458-TIPS (8477).