Members of the El Salvadoran gang MS-13, or Mara Salvatrucha, have threatened Nassau County and Village of Hempstead police officers, according to County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder.
If “MS-13 wants to threaten a cop in this county, MS-13 is going to get an answer,” Ryder said. “We will answer that threat, and we will answer it strongly.”
The threats follow a series of gang killings in the Baldwin-Freeport-Merrick area last year, and the extradition from Maryland last week of Miguel Angel Corea Diaz, known on the street as “the Reaper,” an MS-13 kingpin who is the gang’s highest-ranking member on the East Coast.
The gang has had a presence in Glen Cove, according to both the Nassau County district attorney’s office and Detective Lt. John Nagle of the Glen Cove Police Department, although Nagle said that even though some known MS-13 members live in Glen Cove, they don’t necessarily engage in illegal activities here.
“Our officers have been instructed to be extra careful on certain calls,” he said, “to be extra vigilant at all times.”
The two “cliques,” or semi-independent chapters of MS-13, that operate on Long Island — “Hollywood” and “The Sailors” — report to and share drug profits with gang leaders in El Salvador, according to police.
Diaz was a high-ranking Sailor, according to District Attorney Madeline Singas. Another Sailor, Kevin Cuevas Del Cid, nicknamed “Creeper,” was arrested last July at his landscaping job in Glen Cove after allegedly conspiring to lure a victim into the woods and murder him. Del Cid was described in a January indictment of 17 suspected MS-13 members as a “close associate” of the head of the Sailors on Long Island.
Victor Lopez, a high-ranking member of the Hollywood clique in Nassau and Suffolk, allegedly planned an attack on another clique member, to take place in Glen Cove. According to the indictment, Lopez organized transportation from New Jersey for other Hollywood members to take part in the attack, the indictment claims.
Nagle said that the GCPD is keenly aware of gang members. “We know, through our intelligence, who belongs to what gangs,” he said. He would not give specifics on how many gang members known to the department live in the city, describing that information as “for our eyes only.”
“If they’re not breaking the law,” Nagle said, “we can’t arrest them. Our policy here is that everybody has a right to be a regular citizen” until they forfeit that right by breaking the law.
According to Ryder, arrests have been made in connection with the police threats, including a man in Hempstead who had weapons and masks in his vehicle and was threatening to execute an officer. After the arrest, Nassau police received a second threat. The gang member who allegedly made it was described as a tall, thin, light-skinned Hispanic man with a tattoo of three dots next to his eyes. A police informant passed the threat on to officials.
Ryder spoke at a news conference at police headquarters in Mineola on April 19. County Executive Laura Curran joined him at the lectern.
In response to the threats, police have moved special-operations and emergency-service officers into the Hempstead area and doubled up cars in the 1st and 5th precincts, officials said.
Diaz was arraigned April 19 in a Nassau County courtroom after his extradition. Ryder did not say whether his arrest was related to the threats made against officers, but did say that police were “taking appropriate action to ensure the safety and security of our officers and medics.”
The NCPD is offering a $25,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction of anyone who has threatened police.
Curran praised the county’s first responders, saying, “Their protection is our first priority,” and added that the county would spare no expense “to make sure they’re protected.”
Seventeen MS-13 members were indicted by Singas in January on charges of murder, conspiracy to commit murder and trafficking. According to James Hunt, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s special agent in charge at the time, those arrested included the highest-level MS-13 leader in the Northeast — presumably Diaz, though he was not publicly identified then.
The 21-count indictment charged the defendants with a variety of crimes, including murder, drug trafficking and conspiracy. All 17 face up to 25 years to life in prison if convicted of the top charges, according to the D.A.’s office.
The arrests followed the grim discovery of the remains of Javier Castillo, 19, of Central Islip, in Cow Meadow Park in Freeport on Oct. 25, and Kerin Pineda, 15, in a wooded area between Freeport and Merrick, on Oct. 27. The teens’ murders were suspected to be MS-13-related, but none of the men arrested was named in connection to them.
Last May, Singas’s office joined a DEA investigation of alleged criminal activity of a number of MS-13 cliques in New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia and Texas. The investigation also turned up several kilograms of heroin allegedly trafficked internationally by gang members on Long Island and elsewhere. Officials said that the street value of the drugs is approximately $1 million. The indictment included a number of counts of cocaine and heroin trafficking in Nassau, Suffolk and Bronx counties as well as in New Jersey, Maryland and Texas.