Man shot playing ball

Orlando Benitez

Orlando Benitez came to America for a better life, but his dream ended when he was robbed and mortally wounded as he played ball with his daughter at his home in North Charleston.

His family sat in the living room of his Hawthorne City mobile home Wednesday night — quiet, stunned, heartbroken, staring at the floor. His killer remains at large.

Benitez, 24, an illegal immigrant from Pueblo, Mexico, moved to the area about seven years ago, said his brother, Humberto Benitez.

"What brings everybody here is for a better living, better opportunities," his brother said. "He was just an ordinary man; goes to work every day and comes home."

Tuesday was like many other days. He came home about 5:30 p.m., and his 5-year-old daughter asked him to play soccer with her outside, his brother said.

Witnesses told police that three young men approached and demanded money. One shot Benitez with a handgun, grabbed his wallet, and the group ran away, they said. The little girl ran inside. The Coroner's Office said her father died about 20 minutes later at Medical University Hospital.

"She is having a hard time digesting this," Humberto Benitez said. "She is getting help."

Police were left with only a vague description. Three young, black males, 5 feet 6 inches to 6 feet tall, 120 to 145 pounds. All wore black clothing with silver writing on the back.

Authorities went door to door at the mobile home park Wednesday, looking for answers.

Hawthorne City Office Manager Cathy Rice said the flow of concerned residents wanting to help the family was steady.

"I'm having to deal with everyone that's coming in to the office. I've been in tears all day," she said. "Its awful. I'm devastated that it happened. Nobody should be gunned down. He was a hard-working man. He was just there for his family."

Orlando Benitez is survived by his wife, Monica Hernandez; his daughter; a 2-year-old son; his parents, Alecia and Miguel Benitez of Pueblo; a sister, Marguerita Benitez, of North Charleston; and four brothers, Humberto Benitez and Jose Benitez, both of North Charleston, Juan Benitez of Claxton, Ga., and Miguel Benitez of Metter, Ga. The funeral is set for Saturday at Hilton's Mortuary, 1852 E. Montague Ave. in North Charleston. The time will be announced.