Jurors on Thursday watched a video in which an accused MS-13 gang member appears to calmly walk up behind a suspected rival gang member and fire one shot into the back of his head, then repeatedly fire into his body as it falls to the ground.
The killing of Esteban Alvarado-Bonilla in January 2017 at a Central Islip deli is the climax of a graphic color video stitched together from surveillance-camera footage. It was played Thursday by federal prosecutors at the retrial of another alleged MS-13 associate accused of taking part in the killing.
Jose Suarez, 21, of Central Islip, is on trial for his role in driving the shooter to and from the scene as well as another person tasked by the gang as the “witness" to the killing, according to prosecutors.
Suarez’s attorney, Raymond Colon, maintains that his client has had no role in gang activity and is being prosecuted because he has hung out with MS-13 members. Suarez’s first trial ended in a mistrial.
The video was narrated in federal court in Central Islip by Suffolk Det. Christopher Calvacca, under questioning by Eastern District prosecutor Michael Keilty, who, along with Raymond Tierney, is prosecuting the case.
It shows the victim first being spotted in the early morning hours in the El Campesino deli, apparently by happenstance, by an MS-13 leader.
Alvarado-Bonilla — wearing Peyton Manning’s No. 18 football jersey, clothing favored by the MS-13’s rival, the 18th Street gang — was still hanging out in the deli at 10 a.m. when other MS-13 members checked out the location for his continued presence.
Then members of the hit team were shown in the video being driven near the site and walking to the deli — one initially to stay by the deli counter as an MS-13 “witness” to the crime. Next, about 10:30 a.m., the shooter, wearing a hood and black mask, walked in, according to the detective.
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The footage was compiled from surveillance cameras inside and outside the deli, as well as from nearby homes and a gas station, the detective said. Initially, prosecutors showed the takes from each camera, then the version with takes edited together in a consecutive narrative.
Among the MS-13 members or associates on the video, according to prosecutors, is Alexi Saenz, the leader of the gang’s Sailors clique, who spotted Alvarado-Bonilla in the deli. Saenz is also accused in five other MS-13 killings, including that of Brentwood High School girls Kayla Cuevas and Nisa Mickens.
Saenz, with the gang nickname “Blasty,” is awaiting a decision by prosecutors on whether to seek the death penalty in his case.
Also identified on the video are Mario Aguilar-Lopez, who has pleaded guilty to firing the fatal shots and is awaiting sentencing, and Kevin Cifuentes, who acted as the gang’s “witness” at the scene and has become a government cooperator, prosecutors say. Cifuentes is expected to testify at the trial.