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Queens man indicted in 2016 street killing of Hempstead teen, 15

A Queens man has been indicted on federal charges in connection with the September 2016 killing of a 15-year-old boy who was shot in the head on a Hempstead street, authorities said in a news release Wednesday.

Junior Zelaya-Canales, 23, of Queens, a reputed leader of the 18th Street gang, was arraigned before U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert M. Levy in federal court in Brooklyn on a superseding indictment charging him with the murder of Josue Guzman, according to U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District Richard P. Donoghue’s office.

Donoghue said that Zelaya-Canales was the regional leader of 18th Street gang when he “ordered that Guzman be killed, in part, because the gang perceived Guzman to have been disrespectful towards 18th Street gang members.”

The indictment also charges a Hempstead man, Jonathan Zelaya-Diaz, 25, with conspiracy to commit murder and attempted murder in aid of racketeering, and a Queens man, Eric Chavez, 20, with attempted murder and assault in aid of racketeering, officials said.

Chavez was arrested on Tuesday and is being held while Zelaya-Diaz remains at large, officials said.

“The superseding indictment and arrests announced today are a significant step in dismantling a violent street gang in our district,” Donoghue said. “This Office, with the assistance of local and federal law enforcement partners, will not relent until violent street gangs that endanger communities have been eradicated.”

And FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William F. Sweeney Jr, said: "It defies comprehension these gang members are allegedly murdering and attempting to murder human beings for respect in their gang or in retaliation for some perceived slight. Josue Guzman was just 15-years-old when he was shot and killed because someone deemed him to be disrespectful. We may never be able to change the mindlessness of a teenager being killed for no reason, but we can certainly make sure anyone who commits such a grotesque act will suffer the consequences.”

Don DuBoulay of Manhattan, Zelaya-Canales’ attorney, declined to comment and Chavez’s attorney, Matthew Kluger of the Bronx, could not be reached for comment.

Zelaya-Diaz and Chavez, authorities said, are being charged in connection with two separate crimes in 2017, the release said.

Prosecutors said that on July 9, 2017, Zelaya-Canales, Zelaya-Diaz and another 18th Street gang member directed the shooting of rival gang members over a turf dispute in the Woodhaven section of Queens. And, in September 2017, Chavez allegedly shot a man who authorities declined to identify for the purpose of maintaining and elevating his status in the 18th Street gang.

But the John Doe named as the victim was not a member of the rival MS-13 gang, authorities said.

“Chavez and another gang member approached “Doe” with guns drawn and searched him for MS-13 gang tattoos, but discovered none,” prosecutors said. “Nevertheless, they shot and wounded “Doe” as he fled.”

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