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MS-13 eyeing the five boroughs

Stephon Johnson | 4/12/2011, 4:39 p.m.

Two weeks ago, when Oscar "Taz" Fuentes, 28, asked the court if he could fire his lawyer and plead guilty to staging the drive-by shooting of Flushing resident Maurice Parker in 2007, it symbolized the bizarre, deranged and frightening behavior of the MS-13 street gang.

"I made my choice, your honor," said Fuentes, according to published reports. Fuentes is accused of being the New York State leader of the notorious gang and could face the death penalty if found guilty.

MS-13, aka La Mara Salvatrucha, is a violent international street gang of mostly immigrants from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Their activities include drug and people smuggling, gun running, hits for hire and strong arming local residents. The gang has established various chapters around North America, including in Virginia, Maryland, Texas, Illinois, Nevada, Arkansas, Florida and Mexico. They've recently infiltrated New York State, and according to reports, have entrenched themselves in Long Island communities like Valley Stream, Baldwin, Freeport and Huntington Station. As of press time, attempts to contact the Nassau County Police Department were unsuccessful.

Members of MS-13 usually come to America with fighting skills learned from their country's military. Their calling card, when it comes to violent crimes, is leaving dismembered corpses and decapitated heads at the scene. With the shooting of Maurice Parker in Queens, the New York Police Department (who some people believe are in denial about MS-13's presence) could be awakened by the dangers of the gang. Some folks, however, think the police are late to the party.

"They should have been awake before," said Marquez Claxton, co-founder of 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care. "But the police department operates in reactionary mode. They are not proactive in working with gang prevention." Although Claxton wants a preemptive strike from local authorities, he's not sure if they have the ability and wherewithal to do so.

"It's something that the NYPD is not equipped to handle at this time. They just react after the tragedy," said Claxton. "The NYPD, at this point, is obviously in denial about the danger of MS-13."

Claxton points out what others around the country have known about for while. "They're known to be much more ruthless and recklessly violent than the established domestic terrorists we already have," said Claxton.

One local example of the gang's reckless and violent ways happened late August of 2007. Four college students (two men and two women, ages 18 to 20) were slaughtered execution-style by men who had links to MS-13. They were forced to kneel facing a wall in a schoolyard and were shot in the back of the head. Both women were slashed in the face with a machete or a knife. Only one survived.

Many have speculated that the young people who committed these crimes wanted to join MS-13 and wanted to prove to the others what they were capable of. Jerome Rice, co-founder of 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care, believes this lies at the core of how to deal with gangs overall. "The majority of crime is not done by gang members," said Rice. "They're done by wannabes. They're are guys who want to be down so they commit those crimes."

"You don't take care of gangs now, it'll be California later," said Rice. "Better yet, Newark."

A spokesperson for the office of Newark Mayor Cory Booker said he wasn't giving interviews for the next few days.

"Our strategy is to be proactive about this issue," said Claxton. "We can't always have 'no money' as an excuse. If we surrender, we're leaving the streets unsafe."

The New York Police Department didn't want to comment on MS-13.