Nobeli Montes Zuniga, 20, Ramon Arevalo Lopez, 19, and Oscar Canales Molina, 17, are accused of MS-13 members now face charges after a brawl that took place on Wednesday outside a Burger King restaurant in New York.
(Suffolk County Police Department)
Two of the three suspected MS-13 members arrested after a bat and a knife attack outside a Burger King restaurant in New York this week were previously held by the Domestic Security – but were ordered released by federal judges, officials said.
Nobeli Montes Zuniga, 20, Ramon Arevalo Lopez, 19, and Oscar Canales Molina, 17, are facing second degree assault charges in connection with the fight outside the fast food restaurant in Huntington Station on Wednesday. All three went to the U.S. illegally as unaccompanied minors. Two 16-year-olds sustained injuries in the fight, one with a stab wound, according to authorities.
“While it is not clear what the groups were fighting, one thing is clear: all those arrested are confirmed as a member of the MS-13,” Suffolk Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart said on Thursday, after the announcement of their arrest.
The incident began to unfold after the victims, who were eating in the Burger King, “noted a group of Latin american men that she recognized from [Huntington High] school, including the three suspects, staring at them in a threatening way,” Suffolk County District Attorney Timothy Sini said in a statement obtained by Fox News. “The young people felt uncomfortable and went to leave the restaurant.”
Sini says that the three suspects then “allegedly is charged after the teenagers, while the use of bats and knives, and an argument broke out between the two groups.”
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Police say the attack happened behind the Burger King restaurant in Huntington Station, N. Y.
Witnesses told investigators they saw Zuniga, Lopez, and Molina flee the scene in a black car that was traced by the police about an hour later. Officers, who arrested the trio say they were found with blood on their clothes, hands and on the vehicle. Two knives were recovered from Canales Molina, including a small one that “appeared to be covered in the blood, which was found in his shoe,” the District Attorney’s Office said.
All three had their bail set at $ 35,000 cash or $ 75,000 bond during a court appearance Thursday. They face a maximum of seven years in prison, if convicted.
But it is not the first time that they have appeared on law enforcement radar in the state or federal level.
“All three suspects were previously confirmed as MS-13 gang members by the Suffolk County Police Department,” the District Attorney’s Office said. “Then, Arevalo Lopez was detained by the U. S. Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement on Oct. 24, 2017, and was ordered released by a federal Court judge on June 12, 2018. Canales Molina was detained by ICE on 24 July 2017, and was released by a federal judge on Nov. 28, 2017.”
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In Arevalo Lopez, Robert Sweet, district court judge, who ordered his release, wrote in his ruling that the El Salvadoran introduced in the U.S. as a 17-year-old on Dec. 6, 2016, at a crossroads along the California border with Mexico.
“Lopez told the U. S. Customs and Border Protection agents that he wanted to travel to New York to live with his mother after fleeing gang threats in his home country,” Sweet said, echoing a familiar argument of those who have come to the U.S. seeking asylum.
Eventually he ended up in his desired destination, and “for more than ten months without incident, Arevalo Lopez lived with his mother, her partner and his older brother….in Huntington Station, New York,” the statement said.
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But in October 2017, ICE agents – the suspicious of his possible gang affiliations – appeared at his front door and he asked to stop by their offices for questioning. He is obliged, and then, after interrogation, was arrested and locked up in the Bergen County Jail, where he was placed in the general population, according to the ruling.
Less than a year later, Sweet ordered Arevalo Lopez’s release, saying federal investigators “failed to provide an explanation for why ICE is held Arevalo Lopez, other than the state, that his arrest was on the basis of a Form I-200 warrant.”
“The I-200 in this case, which builds on [Arevalo Lopez] clothing and social associations, in particular that his clothing and accessories are an indication of gang membership” does not approach “the most likely cause,” Sweet wrote in his ruling.
“Arevalo Lopez has no criminal past; he has never been accused of a crime in this country or another,” he added.
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His attorney, Jason Bassett, is also to push back against the police label Arevalo Lopez as an MS-13 gang.
“Ramon is not a member of the MS-13 (or another gang) – is ‘confirmed’ in some ill-conceived database is not proof of anything,” Bassett told Fox News in an e-mail on the Friday morning. “While many of our civil liberties under attack, we are still clinging to the idea that a person is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. Ramon is innocent of the charges against him.”
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The region in which the attack happened this week in New York’s Long Island has long been a hotbed of MS-13 criminal activities.
Yet it is the constant state and Trump administration crackdown against MS-13 seems to be taking a toll on the group, if only four murders recorded in 2018, seemed to be linked to the corridor, a decline of 14 years.