ELKHART — A family remains haunted by the series of events that took place in their front lawn Sunday afternoon and ended when a man was killed in an officer-involved shooting.
Alicia and Manuel, who declined to give their last names, are residents of a house on the 300 block of West Lusher Avenue where Jaime Benavidez, 27, was shot and killed by officers of the Elkhart Police Department on Sunday afternoon, Sept. 1.
Manuel said it was about 2 p.m. when he saw two men, at least one of them armed, walking north from the supermarket in front of his house. Minutes later, when he heard yelling and a man with a gun running around his house, Manuel took the children downstairs to the basement.
Alicia said she and her husband were on their way home from shopping when they saw police near their house. Police seemed to have someone in custody, she said.
Because of all the activity around their house, Alicia and her husband parked their car across the street.
“My son was on the second floor. When he saw a young man carrying a gun he got so close to the window that he pushed the screen off,” Alicia said. “He called me and told me and my husband what he saw and to stay away from the house.”
But Alicia and her husband continued walking.
Before they got to their door they saw a man pointing a gun at them saying, “Open the door,” Alicia said.
“I don’t know what direction he came from or whether he was hiding,” Alicia said. “I just turned around and he was there.”
Another resident in the house who was looking out the window opened the door, and Alicia and her husband managed to get in, but as they closed the door Benavidez attempted to push his way into the house.
“There was a struggle, and when we closed the door he fired at the door,” Alicia said. “We also heard him hit the door a few times, like he was trying to open it.”
There is indication that a bullet went through the front door, through a wall in the living room and out a wall in a bathroom.
Trent Smith, public information officer for the Indiana State Police, said he could not comment on whether Benavidez actually fired shots because of the ongoing investigation.
Benavidez was shot after he pointed his gun at police, according to a press release from the Indiana State Police.
The Elkhart Police Department identified the officers involved in the shooting as Cpl. Bruce Anglemyer, Cpl. James Ballard and Sgt. Karl Miller.
The three police officers are on paid leave while the investigation continues, said Lt. Mike Sigsbee, head of the office of internal affairs.
Neither of the residents saw police shooting Benavidez. They were trying to hide after he shot through the door, they said. Alicia’s son, who was on the phone with an operator from the communications center, was told after the scene was secured that everyone in the house had to get out.
All the adults in the household were searched, handcuffed and taken to the police station for interrogation. Alicia was taken in an ambulance to the hospital because she suffered a panic attack.
“I can’t remember what happened after we closed the door. My hands just stiffened and I couldn’t feel my legs,” Alicia said.
Police were clearing the scene by the time the family was brought back from the police station, hours later.
Alicia said all the residents in the house are struggling to come to terms with what they witnessed Sunday.
“We’re still in shock,” Alicia said, “We can’t sleep and we don’t eat. Our children don’t even want to go out. We don’t know how to deal with it.”