A story for every victim

Mother hears gunshots, then detectives knocking on her door: Her son is dead

The night Martha Tovar’s son was killed, she heard three loud pops shortly after 8 p.m. outside her one-bedroom apartment window in Pico-Union. She wondered to herself if the sounds were fireworks or gunshots.

About an hour later, she turned on the television and waited for her son to arrive home from work.

By 11:30 p.m. on Nov. 6, 2013, she assumed that he had gone out and would be home in the morning. She went to bed.

About 1 a.m., detectives knocked on her door.

Atilio Benavides-Amaya, 39, had been shot about a block away. She realized she had heard the shots.

“I felt bad; I felt like my heart burst because my son was gone,” she said. “But why? Why did they kill him? He never got involved with anyone. He was a humble worker.”

Benavides-Amaya typically rode the bus to and from his job as a clerk at a 99-cent store. That night, he had gotten off the bus and was on his way home when two men walked up and shot at him multiple times at close range, said Los Angeles police Det. Reynaldo Martinez.  The two men, described by witnesses as black and in their 20s or 30s, ran away from the scene and may have gotten into a dark SUV. 

On Wednesday, police and Los Angeles City Councilman Gil Cedillo announced a $50,000 reward for information in the killing.

Police also released surveillance stills of two men, one wearing a light-blue Aeropostale sweatshirt, seen in the area at the time of the killing.

“This young man came to this country seeking a better life, and unfortunately, he lost his,” Cedillo said.

Benavides-Amaya fled El Salvador in late 2010 to live with his mother in Pico-Union. His father died on his way to work in the Salvadoran civil war when Benavides-Amaya was a child. Benavides-Amaya, who liked to DJ at local clubs in his spare time, sent money home to El Salvador to support his 10-year-old child.

“He was not here very long; he was here too short of a time,” Tovar said.

Anyone with information can call LAPD Rampart Division detectives at (213) 484-3639. Those who wish to remain anonymous can call Crime Stoppers at (800) 222-8477.

-- Nicole Santa Cruz and Adolfo Flores

Image: Police are searching for two men who were seen on surveillance video walking in Pico-Union near where Atilio Benavides-Amaya was killed Nov. 6, 2013. Credit: Los Angeles Police Department

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