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.
The threats follow the extradition from Maryland this 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. (See full story here.)
If “MS-13 wants to threaten a cop in this county, MS-13 is going to get an answer,” Ryder responded. “We will answer that threat, and we will answer it strongly.”
According to Ryder, arrests have been made in connection with the threats, including one 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.
A gang member who allegedly made the threat 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 Thursday evening. County Executive Laura Curran joined him at the lectern.
In response, police have moved special-operations and emergency-service officers into the Hemsptead area and doubled up cars in the 1st and 5th precincts, officials said.
Diaz was arraigned early Thursday in a Nassau County courtroom after his extradition. Ryder did not say whether his arrest was related to the threats made against officers, but said 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 Nassau County District Attorney Madeline 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 defendants 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, just north of the Long Island Rail Road tracks that run parallel to Sunrise Highway, on Oct. 27. The teens’ murders were suspected to be MS-13-related, but none of the men arrested had been 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” — subgroups of the gang — in New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia and Texas. The Long Island cliques — said to be operating in Central Islip, Freeport, Glen Cove, Greenport, Hempstead, Roosevelt and Uniondale — are alleged to be under the direct leadership of MS-13 members in El Salvador.
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.