Paul Benitez thought the policeman was staring into his eyes to see if he was drunk, but there was another reason: Officer Kelly Benitez realized he had found his long-lost father.
"Were you ever married to a woman named Debra?" Officer Benitez asked the man in the beat-up Ford Thunderbird he had just pulled over for driving with an expired registration tag.No, he said, but he had dated a woman with that name about 30 years ago. Then he noticed the officer's nametag.
"Are you Kelly?" he asked.
The officer nodded.
"Oh my God, I'm your dad," the driver said.
"The Mr. Cop role stopped right there," said the 29-year-old officer.
The two embraced, prompting several cars to pull over at what they thought was a policeman being assaulted. Kelly held onto his father and waved them back into traffic with a free hand.
"It's still hard to believe," the younger Benitez said Friday.
"If there's a lesson in this, it is to never give up," said Paul Benitez, 49, a Los Angeles schoolteacher. "If you're looking for someone, don't stop until you find them."
The two last saw one another when Kelly was 4 months old.