Son of Pepperdine president arrested on gun, threat charges

Chris Benton, 27, being held on $195,000 bail after allegedly threatening parents.

By Knowles Adkisson / Associate Editor

The son of Pepperdine University President Andrew K. Benton was arrested on campus Thursday last week for allegedly threatening his parents and possession of a loaded weapon following a chase by Los Angeles County sheriffs.

Chris Benton, 27, was taken into custody around 11 a.m. Thursday, said Los Angeles County sheriff’s spokesman Steve Whitmore. Whitmore did not divulge the content of the threats, but said a criminal threat report was taken, “and that’s a felony.”

Benton was booked on suspicion of being a convicted felon in possession of a handgun and in possession of ammunition after sheriff’s deputies found a gun on a nearby hillside they believe Benton threw away as he fled from them, as well as ammunition in his car, Whitmore said. Benton pleaded not guilty to the charges Monday. As of Tuesday he was being held in lieu of $195,000 bail.

Whitmore said deputies were initially called to campus on Wednesday after Chris Benton allegedly made criminal threats against his parents at Brock House, the residence of the Pepperdine president, but Benton left before deputies arrived.


On Thursday, Pepperdine campus police called the sheriff’s department and said Benton had returned again to Brock House. Deputies descended on the campus en masse, but when they arrived at the president’s mansion Benson had left.

“He tried to evade us by going out a side door,” Whitmore said. “He went down a hillside where we ultimately contained him in another building, where he surrendered without incident.”

While retracing Benton’s route of escape, Whitmore said, deputies found a loaded 380 semi-automatic handgun, which he called “a smaller version of a 9 millimeter.”

Additional ammunition was found in Benton’s vehicle, which was parked on campus, Whitmore said.

Whitmore said according to records Chris Benton has a prior felony conviction for possession of a controlled substance in 2009, as well as previous arrests for grand theft of a person felony possession of marijuana with intent to sell.

Andrew Benton released a statement on Thursday stating his son had made a number of “poor choices” and hoping the arrest would mark “a new path.”

Benton released a second statement Tuesday apologizing for a private family matter becoming public. The statement also asserted that Chris Benton would be barred from campus.

“Chris will not be returning to campus for some time, probably a long time,” Andrew Benton wrote. “That status will not change until the University Threat Assessment Team concludes that it is appropriate for him to do so. All parties involved—the Court, the District Attorney, University leaders tasked with assuring campus safety, as well and his mother and I—agree with this decision. It is not an easy thing to do, but it is appropriate.

“Again, you have my personal apology for the impact this has had on our wonderful Pepperdine community.”

Pepperdine University also released a statement Thursday following the incident.

“Pepperdine fully cooperated with law enforcement personnel to protect its students, faculty, staff, and visitors,” the statement read. “The Pepperdine community is asked to remember the Bentons during this difficult time.”

The Malibu Times requested a copy of Thursday’s arrest report from the Los Angeles County sheriff’s department and an incident report from the Pepperdine Department of Public Safety. The sheriff’s department declined, citing an ongoing investigation. Pepperdine officials also declined to release further details of the incident from campus police.

“Pepperdine does not release reports publicly, but…cooperates with LA County Sheriffs and provides them with requested information to further their investigations. This is the University’s policy and has been for many years,” Pepperdine spokesman Jerry Derloshon wrote in an email.

Sheriff’s Department spokesman Steve Whitmore did not disclose the brand of Benton’s gun. An Internet search of 380 semi-automatic pistols showed clip capacities ranging from eight to 13 bullets. The legal maximum in California is 10 rounds plus one in the chamber.

The incident came two days after freshman students arrived on campus Tuesday for new student orientation.

In an interview with the website the Daily Beast the day after the incident, Chris Benton’s attorney, Ronald J. Lewis, said his client was going through “a horrific heroin addiction.”

Safety, ever an issue on high school and college campuses, made headlines again Tuesday when a high school sophomore in Baltimore was charged with attempted murder for allegedly opening fire on the first day of school and critically wounding a classmate. On April 2 a former nursing student at Oikos University in Oakland opened fire in a classroom, killing seven people in one of the deadliest attacks ever on a California campus.

In July, a graduate student in Aurora, Colorado killed 12 people and wounded 58 at a movie theater.

The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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