'Extremely Dangerous' Gunman ID'ed, Though 2-Week Manhunt Continues
While police are still on a manhunt for an "extremely dangerous" gunman accused of murder and kidnapping, they do believe they've identified him.It's been two weeks since police starting combing a remote part of Kern County for a gunman who allegedly murdered a retired dentist, kidnapped and threatened three men, and shot and injured two SWAT deputies. At the time, the identity of the gunman was unknown. Now, authorities believe they're looking for Benjamin Peter Ashley, according to the L.A. Times. Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood said they're "confident" Ashley is who they're looking for and called him "a survivor." Previously, authorities described him as "extremely dangerous" and said he may have been breaking into homes and cabins to steal weapons. He is armed with at least one gun.
Ashley, 34, has been arrested numerous times before and is believed to be homeless. Originally from San Diego, he had an arrest warrant out for resisting an officer in Glendale, and has been arrested in Bear Valley Springs, L.A., Merced and Yosemite, Bakersfield Now reports.
Authorities believe Ashley may be hiding somewhere within five miles from Kelso Valley and Jawbone Canyon Roads, in an area full of places to hide, like abandoned mines and caves.
The strange series of events began on July 29 when three young men said they found Ashley squatting in their cabin near Twin Oaks. The men said Ashley threatened them with a gun and forced them inside the cabin. The men were able to escape when Ashley briefly stepped outside, then contacted the police using a payphone at a Twin Oaks general store. Authorities believe Ashley stole an off-road vehicle at the cabin, then abandoned it two miles away. They think he may have then hiked through the Piute Mountains to a cabin in Weldon where he shot and killed the owner, a 64-year-old retired dentist named David Markiewitz two days later. Then, on August 1, SWAT deputies searching for Ashley entered a mobile home where he was hiding. Ashley allegedly opened fire and shot Deputy Michael Booker in the shoulder and wrist, and another bullet grazed Deputy Jose Perez's ear when he grabbed Booker and pulled him to safety. Law enforcement has been searching for Ashley ever since, and is advising residents to keep their doors locked and remain inside. Schools in the area have been closed, as well as trails in the Piute Mountains.
Ashley has been described a light-skinned black man who is 34 years old with dark hair and hazel eyes. He is 5'11" and 180 pounds.
Anyone with information should call the Kern County Sheriff's Department's 24-hour tip line at (661) 392-4360, or 9-1-1 in the case of an emergency or suspicious activity.