MS-13 gang members plead not guilty to Queens shooting
Two alleged MS-13 gang members and an associate pleaded not guilty Monday for allegedly beating a rival gang member and shooting him in the head, paralyzing him from the neck down.
Surveillance video shot on Oct. 23, 2016 at 179th Street and 90th Avenue in Jamaica, Queens showed 18-year-olds Jose “Flaco” Gonzalez and Kevin “Stomper” Paniagua, with another, brutally attacking a man believed by officials to be a rival gang member.
Paniagua shot the man in the head after Gonzalez and an unidentified man kicked him repeatedly in his face and body. Paniagua aimed at the victim’s head and pulled the trigger again, but the gun failed.
Associate to the gang, Francisco Ramos, 23, allegedly drove the members to the location and is charged alongside Gonzalez and Paniagua with assault and attempted murder-in-aid of racketeering.
Gonzalez, Paniagua and Ramos stood in front of Judge Vera Scanlon at Brooklyn Federal Court, all wearing chain-link belts on top of their shirts and pants to support their oversized prison garb as they were arraigned.
All three have been held in custody without bail since the fall.
Gonzalez told the NYPD the victim was part of the 18th Street rival gang and that he pulled a knife on Gonzalez a month earlier. Despite the surveillance footage, Gonzalez denied his involvement in the attack, saying he was at a bar at the time.
Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13 is a street gang that originated in Los Angeles in the 1980s from Central American refugees of civil wars in El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua. It now stretches across Central American countries, Mexico and Canada, taking form in Queens and Long Island in New York.
“MS-13 feeds on violence and chaos, and forces people to live in fear,” FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William Sweeney said in a statement. “As we arrest and charge more gang members, they’re seeing they can’t operate in the shadows and escape getting caught.”
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions pledged in April to take down the gang, saying its power was due to lax border control.
Gang members often display face, neck or body tattoos representing the gang through gothic lettering spelling out marks like “MS” or “13,” but the three defendants showed clean skin in court.
Gonzalez’s and Ramos’s attorneys, David Stern and Joseph Conway, did not wish to comment.
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