The Homicide Report

The Times chronicles L.A. County
homicide victims

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El Monte: Man, 39, shot by police after taking son hostage

February 12, 2009 |  3:45 pm

Manuel Benitez, a 39-year-old Latino man, was shot by police officers while holding his son hostage in the bathroom of a Chinese restaurant in the 3500 block of Santa Anita Avenue in El Monte on the evening of Tuesday, Dec. 23, 2008.

Benitez, who as a child actor was also known as Mark Everett, was wanted in connection with the June 2004 slaying of his girlfriend, Stephanie Spears.

Both Benitez and his mother, Elizabeth Velasco, went missing after Spears' death. Benitez had taken his then 3-year-old son with him and had not been seen in several years.

Benitez was spotted with his son and reported as a suspicious person. When police officers approached him about 2:30 p.m., he held a gun to his son's head and locked himself in the bathroom of a Chinese restaurant, holding his son as a hostage.

After about two hours of hostage negotiations with Benitez, he opened the door and officers threw in a flash bang grenade and shot him – killing him.

His son, 8, was wounded in the leg. Police said they recovered two guns from Benitez.

-- Ari B. Bloomekatz and Ruben Vives

Slain El Monte Gunman identified as hostage's father