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Breeze: Man shot dead by police in El Monte was Hawthorne murder fugitive

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  • Brent Morgan
    Man shot dead by police in El Monte was Hawthorne murder fugitiveFrom news servicesPosted: 12/24/2008 07:43:09 AM PST EL MONTE - Detectives today identified a
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 30 6:01 PM
      Man shot dead by police in El Monte was Hawthorne murder fugitiveFrom news servicesPosted: 12/24/2008 07:43:09 AM PST
      EL
      MONTE - Detectives today identified a 38-year old Hawthorne murder
      fugitive who took his 6-year-old son hostage at gunpoint, barricaded
      himself and the child inside an El Monte restaurant bathroom, and then
      triggered a bloody standoff that left the suspect dead and the boy
      wounded. The hostage-taker was identified as Manuel Benitez of
      Hawthorne, who's also known as Mark Everett, Mike Evers, Manuel
      Velasco, and Manuel De Velasco, according to the FBI's Web site. Benitez worked as a child actor under the stage name, Mark
      Everett. He had acting roles in the movies "Stand and Deliver" and "Pee
      Wee's Big Adventure." Everett also appeared in the television series
      "Galactica 1980" and "Highway to Heaven." According to the FBI, Benitez spoke several languages, including Cantonese, German, Spanish, French and English. Benitez
      was wanted in connection with the June 21, 2004, murder of his
      girlfriend, Stephanie Spears, that occurred at 13026 Florwood Avenue,
      Deputy Derrick Thompson of the Sheriff's Headquarters Bureau said. According to the Web site of the Fox series "America's Most
      Wanted," Benitez/Everett allegedly bludgeoned his girlfriend to death
      with a dumbbell inside their home during a fit of rage over a bad
      break-up. After the break-up Benitez allegedly tried to take their
      son Benjamin, who was 3 at the time, while Spears was asleep. When she
      woke up and confronted him, he became enraged and attacked her, the Web
      site reported.

      Benitez
      then reportedly took off with his son and was believed to have fled
      with his mother Elizabeth Velasco to Cuba or Mexico, where Velasco has
      family ties, the Web site reported. On May 11, 2005, a state warrant was issued by the Superior
      Court of California, County of Los Angeles, for Benitez's arrest after
      he was charged with murder. He was also charged federally with unlawful flight to avoid
      prosecution and an arrest warrant was issued by the United States
      District Court, Central District of California, on March 21, 2006,
      according to the FBI's Web site. In June 2007, the FBI offered a $20,000 reward for information leading to his arrest.

      Thompson
      said detectives were now seeking the public's help in locating Velasco,
      whose picture on the FBI's Web site shows a woman wearing eyeglasses
      with short white hair. Anyone with information on her whereabouts was
      asked to call (323) 890-5500. The events that culminated with Benitez's death began about
      2:30 p.m. Tuesday when El Monte police responded to a call of a
      suspicious person with a child near the intersection of Ramona
      Boulevard and Santa Anita Avenue, sheriff's Sgt. David Infante said. When officers arrived at the scene, they found Benitez
      armed with a handgun. Benitez then reportedly grabbed his son --
      Benjamin, who is biracial, Black and Latino -- and positioned him
      between himself and police, Infante said. Benitez then took the boy inside Tai Pan Chinese Food, at
      3580 Santa Anita Ave., and locked himself and the child inside a
      bathroom, threatening to kill himself, Benjamin, and any responding
      officers, Infante said. Crisis negotiators entered the restaurant, establishing
      communication with the man for roughly two hours, but he refused to
      comply with their requests to surrender or release the child, Infante
      said. Hours into the standoff, the bathroom door opened, and the
      Special Weapons Crisis Entry Team deployed a flash-bang device inside
      the room. The team then entered the bathroom, attempting to rescue the
      boy and take the suspect into custody, he said. Then, "an officer-involved shooting occurred," Infante
      said, adding that the suspect suffered a gunshot wound, and was
      pronounced dead at the scene. Two handguns in Benitez's possession were
      recovered following the shooting, he added. Shortly after that, officers emerged from the restaurant
      carrying the boy, who suffered a non-life threatening gunshot wound to
      his leg, according to the sheriff's department. It was unclear whose
      gunfire he was wounded by.

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