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Long IslandCrime

Hempstead Lake State Park stabbing suspect held without bail

Police escort Francisco Romero, 17, of Hempstead, out

Police escort Francisco Romero, 17, of Hempstead, out of headquarters in Mineola Monday. Romero was held without bail in connection with the stabbings May 23 of three high school students. Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

A suspected MS-13 gang member was ordered held without bail on charges he stabbed three teenagers with a machete at Hempstead Lake State Park last month, authorities said.

Francisco Romero, 17, of Franklin Street, Hempstead, one of three teenagers suspected in the attacks, was charged with six counts of felony second-degree assault and four counts of misdemeanor menacing in the May 23 assaults on three Hempstead High School students and another victim, according to court papers and authorities.

Park police are still looking for the two other suspects — said to be 16 or 17. The students were attacked just after 3 p.m. as they walked on a trail not far from the high school, park police said.

“The investigation continues and more arrests are anticipated,” Randy Simons, a spokesman for the state Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation said in a statement Sunday night.

Two of the three machete victims were “hit in the back with a machete, causing a laceration,” according to court documents, which indicated the third machete attack victim had two lacerations.

Romero also chased the three high schoolers — and a fourth victim — with a tree branch, “hitting them with it and then closed his fists when the branch he was using broke,” the papers said.

Romero told police, according to the documents: “The branch I used was dry and broke. When I hit the guy . . . then I just hit him with my hands. I didn’t use a knife.”

Romero did not enter a plea.

Nassau District Court Judge Paul Meli issued four orders of protection on behalf of the victims against Romero, according to a spokesman for the Nassau District Attorney’s office.

Romero was represented by a Legal Aid Society attorney at his arraignment and is due back in court Wednesday, the spokesman said.

State police arrest Romero at 1 p.m. Sunday. According to the court documents, the victims positively identified Romero as their attacker.

Two of the victims were 16 and the third 18, said Simons, shortly after the stabbings. The three victims were treated at a hospital, Simons said at the time.

After the attacks, State Park Police increased patrols at the Hempstead park. Officials in the Hempstead Union Free School District also said they had beefed up security on their campuses as a result of the stabbings.

School officials also provided grief counseling to students who knew the victims.

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