Crime Date: July 28, 2015
Crime: Murder, Att. Murder of a Police Officer
Agency: Kern County, CA Sheriff’s Department
On July 28, 2015, three men were taken hostage after they confronted an armed suspect they believed to be living in a cabin illegally. For the next several hours, he held the men hostage, threatening to kill them. It wasn’t until later they were able to escape and alert authorities. A short time later, they helped construct a composite sketch of the suspect that was widely distributed in the media.
Deputies immediately began conducting an area search for the suspect. Two days later their search intensified when a retired dentist was found murdered inside another cabin 10 miles away.
On August 1, 2015, members of the Kern County Sheriff’s SWAT team were assisting deputies when they came under fire during a search inside a Kelso Valley mobile home. The armed confrontation led to two deputies receiving non-life threatening wounds and the suspect’s escape.
For the next two weeks, Kern County Sheriff’s deputies conducted the largest manhunt in the department’s history. During the investigation, fingerprint and DNA evidence led to the identification of Benjamin Peter Ashley, 34, a homeless drifter with a lengthy arrest record, who was alleged to have access to numerous firearms.
It wasn’t until about two and a half weeks after their search began that deputies received a break in the case.
On Saturday, August 14, 2015, a citizen reported that Ashley was inside an Inyokern convenience market making a large purchase of junk food items. Deputies quickly responded to confront Ashley as he left the store. During their contact with him, an officer-involved shooting occurred during which Ashley was killed.