Shooting marks third time in six months city police have used deadly force

Posted on Jan. 16, 2014 at 12:00 a.m.

ELKHART — Wednesday night’s shooting at a Martin’s is the third time in less than six months that Elkhart police have used deadly force.

Here’s a look at the other two:

On Labor Day afternoon, Sunday, Sept. 1, Jaime I. Benavidez, 27, was shot and killed by Elkhart police who had responded to a burglary in progress near the 300 block of West Hubbard Avenue.

According to an investigation, Benavidez fled and was spotted in the 300 block of West Lusher Avenue when he raised a gun in the direction of officers. At that point, three officers fired their weapons at Benavidez until he dropped his weapon and collapsed.

Elkhart County Prosecutor Curtis Hill announced Oct. 21 that his office would not convene a grand jury to investigate the shooting.

Benavidez had been a shooting victim in 2008 and 2012 in Elkhart, according to police and news reports.

Benavidez had a criminal history in Elkhart and Allen counties. He faced charges in Allen County between 2004 and 2012, including theft, resisting law enforcement and residential entry.

In Elkhart County, Benavidez was arrested in 2012, for domestic battery in front of a child and strangulation. He later pled guilty to domestic battery.

On Sunday night, Nov. 10, Christopher James Ryckeart, 31, of Elkhart, was fatally shot by police after he led police on a chase that took officers into Michigan and eventually back to Elkhart.

The chase began after Elkhart officers attempted to stop the pickup truck Ryckeart was driving for a violation. The truck had been reported stolen.

The chase lasted more than 40 minutes and ended in the area of Marion and Fourth streets. Ryckeart was shot behind a house after attempting to back his truck into the path of officers who were attempting to apprehend him.

Elkhart County Prosecutor Curtis Hill announced earlier this month that a grand jury will examine the fatal shooting.

The most recent murder involving more than one victim came on the morning of Thursday, Sept. 5, at Saleh’s Market, 401 Middlebury St., Elkhart, when Jagtar Bhatti, the 55-year-old store owner, and Pawan Singh, 20, were killed.

Police arrested and charged two suspects, Richard Gross and Kevin Moore, in the incident.

Police in Elkhart County have also investigated two murder-suicides in a little more than a year.

On March 4, 2013, Eric Haitsma, 51, shot and killed Millicent Morros, 48, before taking his own life in a parking lot in downtown Goshen, according to police.

On Dec. 1, 2012, Ervin K. Howard, 63, shot 45-year-old Debbie McDowell in a parking lot of the old American Countryside Farmer’s Market southwest of Elkhart before shooting himself in a parking lot at 2210 Franklin St. in Elkhart.

Both murder-suicide cases were related to domestic disputes, according to police.

In one of the most horrific murder cases in recent history, Angelica Alvarez killed her four children in their Elkhart home Nov. 14, 2006. The victims were Jennifer Lopez, 8; Gonzalo Lopez, 6; Daniel Valdez, 4; and Jessica Valdez, 2.

Alvarez received a life in prison without a chance of parole.

Possibly one of the most notable shootings in recent local history came on Dec. 6, 2001, when Robert Wissman killed a co-worker and wounded six others before killing himself during a rampage at Nu-Wood Decorative Millwork on the south side of Goshen.

The Martin’s shooting resulted in the first Elkhart homicides of 2014.

In 2013, Elkhart County recorded 10 homicides, including six in the city of Elkhart.

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