Former Child Actor Killed By Police In Hostage Standoff

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- A former child actor killed by police after a two-hour standoff as he held his 7-year-old son hostage in a restaurant was a suspect wanted for the 2004 murder of his girlfriend, authorities said Wednesday.

The boy was wounded.

The man killed was 38-year-old Manuel Benitez, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said in a statement. Police were searching for his mother, who may have been traveling with him.

Authorities had been seeking Benitez since the slaying of Stephanie Spears in Hawthorne more than four years ago. She had been beaten to death with a dumbbell.

Benitez had a son with Spears, named Benjamin, and the child had not been seen since Spears' death, according to Benitez' fugitive profile on the FBI Web site.

Benjamin suffered a gunshot wound to the thigh in Tuesday's standoff in suburban El Monte but was expected to survive, said sheriff's Lt. Liam Gallagher. He would not say who shot the boy.

Benitez was charged with murder and a California warrant was issued for his arrest in May 2005, the FBI Web site said. A federal warrant for unlawful flight to avoid prosecution was issued in March 2006. The FBI had offered a $20,000 reward for information leading to his arrest.

El Monte police Detective Ralph Batres said the standoff began after an officer noticed a man take a boy off the sidewalk and head to a Chinese restaurant in a strip mall. Benitez ignored the officer's orders to stop and barricaded himself inside, Batres said.

Police said Benitez, who wore a camouflage jacket and had two handguns, held the boy hostage in a back room of the restaurant.

Gallagher said Benitez told police during negotiations that he was going to shoot police and harm the child.

Police closed nearby streets and shoppers were evacuated from neighboring stores as dozens of officers and emergency crews surrounded the restaurant.

Benitez was declared dead after police threw a flash-bang grenade into the restaurant and exchanged gunfire with him, Gallagher said.

The sheriff's statement said detectives were seeking the public's help in finding his mother, Elizabeth Velasco, who authorities believed may have been traveling with Benitez.

The FBI Web site said Benitez, who was featured on "America's Most Wanted" earlier this year, had been a child actor who used the name Mark Everett, one of several Benitez aliases listed in the sheriff's department statement.

As child actor Mark Everett, Benitez had small parts in the television shows "Highway to Heaven" and "Trapper John, MD," and the movies "Pee Wee's Big Adventure" and "Stand and Deliver," according to the FBI and The Internet Movie Database Web site.

The sheriff's statement said Benitez also went by the names Mike Evers and Manuel Velasco.

El Monte is a city of about 116,000 people 13 miles east of Los Angeles.

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  • by Richard Location: kittyhawk on Dec 26, 2008 at 10:18 AM
    I looked up the FBI website and learned that this man took his child when he killed his girfriend. The FBI suspected that he had his son as well as his mother with him. At least he was caught and justice was served. It saved the taxpayers a lot of money and time in planning his trial. Hopefully, the boy has someone to raise him in a loving home. I would hope there is some psychological counseling offered to this child. The emotional scars could devastate him.
  • by ~ALPHA female~ Location: O84P on Dec 25, 2008 at 09:50 PM
    I'm glad the 7 yr old boy wasn't harmed physically...but mentally..I'm sure it's other wise. So this guy had a couple of appearances on some mediocre shows.... Trapper John, MD....are you kidding me? I don't remember this "child actor", he must have been a big nobody, and he died that way to. Oh yea...I do remember him playing in Pee Wee's Big Adventure..... I'm lying! C'est la vie.........
  • by MrT Location: LaNC on Dec 24, 2008 at 12:42 PM
    Why is it that a lot of child actors become criminals when they grow up? Like for instance Todd Bridges,Gary Coleman, Dana Plato, and Danny Bonaduce just to name a few. They are even on a TV program commenting on how dumb other criminals are.Maybe when they grow up and arent that popular anymore, they just get bored.
  • by Texas Truth Location: Texas on Dec 24, 2008 at 09:40 AM
    Well, I guess his status as a "former" child actor didn't help him much. Perhaps he should have saved some of the money he earned in those formative years and set himself up for a betetr future. What kind of man holds a 7-year-old hostage? He was no man and got what he deserved.

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