Detectives on Wednesday 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.
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. The suspect suffered a gunshot wound and was pronounced dead at the scene. Two handguns in Benitez's possession were recovered following the
shooting, Infante said.
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 who fired the shot that wounded him.