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$50,000 reward offered in Pico-Union killing of 99-cent store clerk

Crime, Law and JusticeCrimeHomicideShootingsTheftAeropostale Inc.

Police on Wednesday announced that a $50,000 reward was being offered for information in the November slaying of a 39-year-old discount store clerk in Pico-Union.

Atilio Benavides-Amaya, who worked at a 99-cent store, had just gotten off a bus and was on his way home about 8:15 p.m. when he was approached by two men on foot and shot multiple times at close range off South Union Avenue near West 14th Street, said LAPD Det. Reynaldo Martinez.

The two men ran east on West 14th Street and may have gotten into a dark SUV. Witnesses described the two as in their early 20s or 30s, with average heights and medium builds.

HOMICIDE REPORT: Tracking killings in L.A. County

"It might be just a robbery gone bad," Martinez said.

Police are looking for two men who were seen on surveillance video walking along a sidewalk in the area of the crime. One may have been wearing a light-blue Aeropostale sweat shirt.

Benavides-Amaya had fled El Salvador 2½ years ago to escape violence in there. His father was killed on his way to work in the crossfire of the Salvadoran civil war when Benavides-Amaya was a child.

"This young man came to this country seeking a better life, and unfortunately, he lost his," said Gil Cedillo, the Los Angeles city councilman who represents the area.

During a news conference Wednesday, Benavides-Amaya’s mother, Martha Tovar, wiped her eyes with a tissue as officials spoke of the crime.

Tovar said that on the night of the shooting she heard three gunshots. She looked out her apartment window and wondered if the noises were fireworks or bullets. Around 9 p.m., she turned on the television and waited for her son to come home.

Four hours later, detectives knocked on her door.

"I couldn’t believe it because I didn’t expect it would happen to him," Tovar said.

Anyone with information about the shooting was encouraged to call LAPD Rampart Division detectives at (213) 484-3639. Those who wish to remain anonymous can call Crime Stoppers at (800) 222-8477. The reward announced Wednesday is offered for information leading to the conviction of the person or persons responsible for Benavides-Amaya's death.

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nicole.santacruz@latimes.com

adolfo.flores@latimes.com

Twitter: @nicolesantacruz, @adolfoflores3

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