A 22-year-old Fontana man died after being shot in the head in a vehicle inside a gated affordable housing community in Rialto on Thursday, and police took a man into custody and then released him after saying they were searching for two people in connection with the killing.
The victim has been identified as Jonathan Christopher Benitez, Rialto Police Department Sgt. Robert Muir said. Friends and loved ones who went to the scene said he had a 7-year-old daughter.
Officers were called to the 300 block of West Winchester Avenue for reports of a shooting victim just before 5 a.m., according to a police news release.
They found a man with a single gunshot wound to the head in the driver’s seat of a car. The victim, who investigators said was also been robbed, was pronounced dead on scene.
Police think he was in the area to meet a friend.
"Some time during that meeting, they were approached by two unidentified black males ... on foot. Some type of confrontation did occur," police Sgt. Cameron Nelson said.
About eight hours after the shooting, a man was seen handcuffed and being taken into police custody. The victim’s ex-girlfriend, with whom he has the daughter, said the man is known as "Jay the barber.”
He was described as the victim's best friend, and he had told police he tried to render aid to Benitez after the shooting. He identified himself as Franklin Wilson to reporters at the scene
"This ain't right," Wilson said as he was led away.
A detective on scene said the man was a “possible suspect” who was being taken for questioning. But by early evening, he had been released and was seen back at the scene of the killing.
Investigators initially said they believed two black males shot Benitez in the car and then fled in a white Toyota Camry. No age for the shooters was given, nor was any description other than gender and race.
Video from the scene showed a 2013 white Ford sedan parked on the side of the road near an apartment that was blocked off with yellow police caution tape.
The shooting occurred in the Citrus Grove affordable housing development, which has controlled access via a gate, video showed. The 152-unit development opened in 2008 in an effort to transform a crime-ridden neighborhood.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Detective Ralph Ballew at 909-820-8055 or RBallew@rialtopd.com.