RIDGECREST, Calif. (AP) — Sheriff's deputies in California shot and killed a man believed to be the target of a two-week-long manhunt in the rugged, mountainous high desert of central California, authorities said late Saturday.
A man who matched the description of Benjamin Peter Ashley, 34, was fatally struck by two deputies who tried to stop him as he walked on a rural road toward the foothills, Kern County sheriff's spokesman Ray Pruitt said.
He was shot after he brandished a handgun, Pruitt said.
"We have not positively identified him, but all indications are it is the suspect we were looking for," Pruitt said.
The confrontation came after the owner of a convenience store reported that a man matching Ashley's description had come in and bought about $100 worth of junk food.
"He was dirty. He looked like he had been hiking for days," Gary Welfl, the owner of Brady's Mini-Mart in Inyokern, told KERO-TV.
Dozens of deputies and officers from various agencies have been searching in remote terrain about 30 miles east of Bakersfield for Ashley. He is suspected of killing a retired dentist, taking three men hostage and wounding two deputies.
The crime spree began on July 28 when a gunman took three men hostage in a cabin in the Twin Oaks area after they confronted him about squatting on their property. Authorities said the suspect held the men for more than an hour and threatened to kill them before they escaped.
The search intensified two days later when David Markiewitz, 64, was found dead in another cabin in Jawbone Canyon, about 10 miles away.
On Aug. 1, two SWAT team members were shot and wounded by a shotgun-wielding man as they searched a mobile home in Kelso Valley for Ashley. One deputy was shot in both arms, and the other was grazed.
During the manhunt, authorities warned residents to stay inside and lock their doors and windows. Two elementary schools and a middle school were shut. Authorities also closed a stretch of the famed Pacific Crest Trail in the southern Sierra Nevada during the manhunt.
The 5-square-mile search area is dotted with unoccupied homes and trailers, outbuildings, abandoned mines and caves and other hiding places.