U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement confirmed this week that six of the seven people arrested in Towson, Maryland, for murder earlier this month were members of the MS-13 gang.
WBAL reported that the six gang members were in the U.S. illegally; five were from El Salvador and one was from Mexico. From WBAL:
Baltimore County police arrested Jonathan Escobar-Hernandez, Marlon Fabian-Flores, Edwin Garcia-Martir, Hugo Portillo-Chavez, Odaliz Rosas-Yanez and Leonal Velasquez-Hernandez in connection with the July 31 stabbing death of Daniel Cuellar.
Velasquez-Hernandez is 16, but is being charged as an adult in the case. He waived his rights and spoke to county police detectives at an ICE office in New Orleans, according to charging documents. He said he participated in surveillance that led to Cuellar's murder, police said in charging documents. Police said he pointed himself out in video surveillance footage.
All remain held without bail. Police believe Cuellar was the intended target of a planned murder, but the motive remains under investigation.
The Balitmore Sun reported that Cueller was targeted because he flashed “a hand sign of the 18th Street gang.” The 18th Street gang are the rivals of MS-13.
“The victim had been seen making a hand gesture that was believed to be indicative of an affiliation with the 18th Street,” detectives wrote in documents reviewed by the Sun.
The MS-13 members then stalked Cueller, 21, after he left a laundromat in July and stabbed him to death in front of his apartment building. The Sun reported one of the killers allegedly used a “machete-style knife.”
“Detectives traced Cuellar back to the laundromat and recovered surveillance footage that showed him being watched and followed. They said those stalking Cuellar traveled in a white 2008 Dodge Caliber. Nearly two weeks later, police stopped the car in Mississippi and arrested the occupants. Detectives wrote that they matched the occupants to those seen on the video cameras,” the Sun reported.
Initially, all seven arrested in connection to the crime were announced as members from MS-13, but thus far only six are confirmed to be actual members. It is unclear at this time what, if any, connection the seventh person had to the gang.
Maryland has been struggling with gang violence for some time. In July, four teenagers were arrested for beating 14-year-old Ariana Funes-Diaz to death. Two of the four were members of MS-13, who feared Funes-Diaz would tell police about a gang-related kidnapping two months earlier in Washington, D.C., WBAL reported.
At the end of August, an MS-13 gang member from Maryland was sentenced to 30 years in prison for racketeering and stabbing a rival gang member to death four years earlier, the Sun reported.
In April 2018, another MS-13 gang member from Gaithersburg, MD, was sentenced to 35 years in prison for the stabbing of a rival gang member three years earlier.