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Kern County deputies kill man matching description of fugitive slaying suspect

Kern County deputies kill man matching description of fugitive slaying suspect
A sign supporting law enforcement is visible to motorists near the Weldon Methodist Church off Highway 178 during the manhunt. (Casey Christie / Associated Press)

Kern County deputies shot and killed a man in Inyokern on Saturday afternoon who matched the description of Benjamin Peter Ashley, a homeless man suspected of killing a retired dentist and wounding two sheriff's deputies, authorities reported.

Lt. Damian Nord said the shooting occurred about 5:30 p.m. after the Kern County Sheriff's Department received a tip that a man matching Ashley's description was at a location on U.S. 395.

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Nord said two deputies confronted the man as he walked outside Brady's Mini Mart at 4467 N. Highway 395 and opened fire, killing him. Both officers were unhurt.

Nord said the incident is under investigation, and no further details were available about the events leading up to the shooting.

Though the person who was killed looks similar to the 34-year-old Ashley, Nord said a positive identification had not been made as  of Saturday night.

Ashley is wanted in connection with the July 28 slaying of a dentist, the kidnapping of three people, and the wounding of two Kern County deputies. A no-bail warrant has been issued on charges of kidnapping, murder and attempted murder of a peace officer.

He has been the focus of an intensive manhunt and was last believed to be hiding in the wilderness near Lake Isabella.

According to the Associated Press, 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.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Twitter @LADeadline16

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