Sources: Central Islip shootings tied to previous gang crime

Investigators take measurements at Acorn and Cinnamon streets, Investigators take measurements at Acorn and Cinnamon streets, near the area where 21-year-old Keenan Russell was fatally shot in Central Islip. (May 28, 2013) Photo Credit: James Carbone

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Bullets recovered from at least one of two fatal shootings in a Central Islip neighborhood match those from previous Suffolk crime scenes involving MS-13 gang members, a source familiar with the investigation said Thursday.

The weapons used in the killings of Derrick Mayes and Keenan Russell, both 21, were a shotgun and either a .22-caliber or .25-caliber handgun, a second law enforcement source added Thursday.

Mayes and Russell were among three Central Islip men gunned down in separate shootings less than two days apart beginning late Sunday night.

In the cases of Mayes and Russell, law enforcement sources said Wednesday that both men may have been random victims of a lethal gang-initiation ritual involving MS-13 gang members. Other tactics used in the Mayes and Russell killings are similar to those used in shootings in 2009 and 2010 in Central Islip that were the work of MS-13 gang members, sources said Wednesday.

Also, members of the gang in Suffolk have few firearms, and those they do have are often traded back and forth, other sources said Thursday.

Despite similarities to MS-13 gang members' methods waging street violence, other law enforcement sources said no one has been charged in either shooting and it's too early to draw any conclusions.

No charges have been filed in the shooting of the third man either, but Suffolk police said it likely was not connected to the others. Matthew Gilmore, 25, was shot and killed inside a house located on Clayton Street about 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, 14 hours after Russell was shot about 12:30 a.m.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone vowed in a statement Tuesday to "commit whatever resources are necessary to bring the perpetrators to justice."

On Thursday, Bellone defended his January decision to disband the police department's centralized gang unit and return the officers to precincts. Officers at the precinct level are more effective at fighting gang violence than at the county level, he said. Last August, Suffolk officers left the federal Long Island Gang Task Force for the same reason. Sources said Wednesday that Suffolk police have reached out to members of the same federal task force for help with the Central Islip investigation.

"If anything, what you need, and what this demonstrates, is you need intelligence on the ground, in the places where the crimes are happening," Bellone said.

Before a meeting with Hauppauge community leaders, he said, "You can't second-guess everything that happened," when asked about precinct officers' knowledge of gang activity that may have led to two of the recent killings.

"Obviously, violence occurs. Crime occurs," Bellone said. "If we had a crystal ball, we could stop all crimes from occurring."

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