Cops search for evidence of gang activity in Massapequa Preserve

Nassau police conduct a search in the Massapequa Preserve on Thursday, Nov. 2, 2017. / Howard Schnapp

Nassau police returned to Massapequa Preserve on Thursday afternoon to “search for any type of evidence of gang activity,” police said.

About 20 members of the department were dispatched to the 432-acre park, where the body of Valley Stream’s Julio Cesar Gonzales-Espantzay, 19, was found in March.

The police presence was part of an initiative to patrol parks in search of gang violence...

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Nassau police returned to Massapequa Preserve on Thursday afternoon to “search for any type of evidence of gang activity,” police said.

About 20 members of the department were dispatched to the 432-acre park, where the body of Valley Stream’s Julio Cesar Gonzales-Espantzay, 19, was found in March.

The police presence was part of an initiative to patrol parks in search of gang violence or evidence, in response to the human remains found in recent weeks.

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“What we’re doing is looking for any type of evidence of any type of gang meeting spot, whether it be a bonfire, beer bottles, beer cans, litter — anything which would say there’s an individual or a bunch of individuals lingering here, meeting here,” said Det. Lt. Richard LeBrun. “Anything to promote any types of gangs.”

According to police, Gonzales-Espantzay had been stabbed and shot in January, and authorities have said two men whom they described as MS-13 members were responsible for his death.

Nassau police officers and homicide detectives last week searched the preserve, acting on a gang-related tip reporting a body about 50 feet from where Gonzales-Espantzay was found. No remains were found.

Over a span of nine days, there were three grisly discoveries in Nassau.

The body of Angel Soler, 16, of Roosevelt, was found Oct. 19 in woods in the Roosevelt-Baldwin area. Federal and local investigators believe Soler was killed by MS-13 members, according to sources.

Another set of remains was unearthed Oct. 25 in Cow Meadow Park and Preserve in an unincorporated part of Freeport. Police have yet to release the identity of the remains.

On Friday, the remains of another suspected victim of gang violence were found in thick woods surrounding a large pond east of the Meadowbrook State Parkway and north of Long Island Rail Road tracks, on the Freeport-Merrick border. Those remains also have not been identified.

Nassau County acting Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder has not said if any of the killings were related.

Authorities on Long Island have been cracking down on the notorious MS-13 gang, which targets for killing those who members believe have disrespected the gang or are members of rival gangs.

With John Valenti