At the east end of Frederick Avenue in Roosevelt, on a leafy residential block with a Baptist church, Nassau County police set up a command post last Wednesday afternoon. In the dense woodland to the east, authorities found the body of a man who was believed to have been killed by the El Salvadoran gang MS-13.
On June 4, police identified the victim as Josue Amaya Leonor, 19, of Roosevelt, who reportedly attended Freeport High School. No further information on Leonor was available as press time. The investigation is ongoing, authorities said.
Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder said at a news conference at the site on May 30 that there is “no doubt” the victim, who was discovered in a grave five feet deep on state-owned land off the Meadowbrook Parkway, was murdered by a member or members of Mara Salvatrucha.
This is an “older murder,” Ryder said, adding that local residents should not be concerned for their safety. Still, Nassau police are stepping up patrols in the area.
The discovery of the body, a mile into the woods, brings the total number of young men allegedly killed by MS-13 in central Nassau to five in the past year or more.
The body was found following the the arrest on the night of May 29 of Josue Figueroa-Velasquez, 18, of Freeport, who was charged with second-degree murder in connection with the death of 16-year-old Angel Soler, of Roosevelt. Soler was hacked to death with machetes. Also charged with second-degree murder in that case were David Sosa Guevara, 26, of Wyandanch, and Victor Lopez, 29, of Roosevelt. Police believe that Soler’s death is connected to MS-13.
In addition to Soler, three other teens are believed to have been killed by MS-13. The body of 19-year-old Kerin Pineda, of Freeport, was found in the woods between Freeport and Merrick, near the Sunrise Highway, last November. He, too, was hacked to death with machetes, according to authorities. Javier Castillo, of Central Islip, was found in Cow Meadow Park, at the southern end of South Main Street in Freeport, last October. And the remains of Julio Cesar Gonzales-Espantzay, of Valley Stream, were discovered in the Massapequa Preserve, near Seaview and Ocean avenues, last March.
In addition to Ryder, present at the news conference were Nassau County Executive Laura Curran and District Attorney Madeline Singas.
Curran thanked the NCPD for its “relentless” pursuit of MS-13 members believed to be involved in what can only be described as a killing spree. She said the NCPD is working “hand in hand” with the Department of Homeland Security and the district attorney’s office to solve the murders and bring MS-13 to justice.
“These are brutal acts,” Singas said of the killings. She vowed that those responsible for them would face “harsh consequences.”
In the middle of the block, just past the area that police had cordoned off, stood a 42-year-old African-American man, who did not wish to be identified. He said he was angry to learn of the murder, and that the victim was buried in Roosevelt.
“It’s a shame that in a black community we are being targeted,” he said. “When is this going to stop, especially in a black neighborhood?”
“This is a good neighborhood, a great neighborhood, no drugs,” he continued. “Why do they have to bring it to a black neighborhood?”