Twelve gang members linked to the MS-13 gang have been arrested in Virginia in connection with four killings last year.
The deaths of Milton Beltran Lopez, 40; Jairo Geremeas Mayorga, 39; Eric Lanier Tate, II, 25; and Antonio Kaoul Smith, 37, were part of the year-long investigation into “Sitios Locos Salvatruchas,” a group within MS-13, according to Robert E. Bornstein, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Washington Field Office Criminal Division.
The victims “were killed in cold blood for no apparent reason. They were randomly targeted individuals,” said Prince William County Police Acting Chief Jarad Phelps, according to WUSA-TV.
Police say five members of the gang are charged with killing Smith in 2019 to advance their status in the gang.
“They were random and done at the benefit of the gang,” Phelps said of the murders, according to Fox News. “That is unacceptable. Any murder is unacceptable. This criminal enterprise is unacceptable.”
“How do you take another human’s life to be a gang?” said Joan Lewis, Antonio Smith’s mother.
“I’m happy with the murderers being caught, but … I’ll never get to hold my son. I’ll never get to see his face, I’ll never get to see him smile,” she said.
Police filed 50 charges against the 12 people arrested, and another 80 charges against them and other suspected members of Sitios Locos Salvatruchas that include gang participation, narcotics distribution and weapon-related crimes.
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Police say members of Sitios Locos Salvatruchas were involved in drug trafficking that brought drugs from New York to northern Virginia.
“They were a danger to our public,” Phelps said, according to ABC News.
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“The criminal enterprises of this gang are far-reaching,” he also said, according to The Washington Post. “They were involved in a lot more than we probably uncovered.”
“Traditionally, when we deal with gang crime it’s generally gang-on-gang. They are attacking each other,” said Jay Lanham, executive director of the Northern Virginia Gang Task Force. “This case has proved to be very unusual in that they were randomly targeted individuals.”
“This joint investigation is the culmination of many man-hours of hard work to remove violent gang members from the streets of Northern Virginia,” he said. “The men and women involved in this investigation are dedicated to eradicating gang crime throughout the region.”
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