A pair of brothers who are MS-13 gang members has been charged with the attempted murder of two teenagers in separate machete attacks in Westbury -- assaults that come as Suffolk County has seen nearly a dozen young people killed at the hands of the notorious street gang in the last year, authorities said Wednesday.
A third man, another MS-13 member, also faces an attempted murder charge in the most recent attack early Sunday, Nassau County police said.
In that case, Fidel Hernandez, 23, of New Cassel, struck the victim with a machete in the stomach about 12:15 a.m., police said. Jose Hernandez, 26, who lives with brother on Sherman Street, fired multiple shots at the victim from a handgun, police said. The victim was not hit by the gunfire, police said.
The third man, Miguel Urias Arguenta, 18, of Brush Hollow Road in Westbury, fled on foot with the brothers, police said. Prosecutors said he “acted in concert” with the others but police wouldn’t specify what he did.
Nassau police said the Hernandez brothers also assaulted another teenager with a machete in January in Westbury — the victim slashed across the right side of his face, leaving him with a “significant, deep wound requiring multiple stitches,” said Chief of Department Kevin Smith.
Smith, at a news briefing at police headquarters in Mineola Wednesday, said the three men “all purport to be MS-13 gang members,” with two of the three having criminal records. He would only say that police were investigating whether the violence in Westbury was linked to the recent spate of MS-13 killings in Brentwood and Central Islip.
“All three have demonstrated that they’re extremely dangerous people,” said Smith. “We would encourage anyone else who had been victimized or afraid of these people, maybe afraid to report it, to come forward and contact the police.”
Smith, who spoke alongside Deputy Insp. Kenneth Catalni, commanding officer of the major case bureau, and Det. Sgt. Michael Marino, commanding officer of the gang investigations squad, would not say whether either of the victims are suspected gang members or if they knew the perpetrators.
“Not everyone’s cooperative with us, and we’re trying to find out some of the answers to those questions,” said Smith. All three men were arrested Tuesday and were arraigned Wednesday in First District Court in Hempstead, where the Hernandez brothers were held without bail and Arguenta’s bail was set at $750,000 bond or $500,000 cash, officials said.
Both Hernandez brothers are charged with two counts of second-degree attempted murder and possession of a dangerous weapon, while Arguenta is charged with attempted murder, police said. All three men had Legal Aid Society or court-appointed attorneys.
Det. Lt. Richard LeBrun, a department spokesman, said the Nassau’s gang investigators had been “monitoring” the Hernandez brothers, but wouldn’t say why.
“The Hernandez brothers were on the radar; they were being watched by gang investigators for a few months,” said LeBrun.
The brothers were born in El Salvador and entered the country illegally, police said. Jose Hernandez has no prior criminal record, but Fidel Hernandez has prior arrests for trespassing, robbery, stalking, and acting in a manner injerous to a child 17 years of age, police said.
Arguenta was also born in El Salvador, entered the country as an unaccompanied minor and is in the process of applying for a green card, police said. His criminal record includes arrests for burglary, criminal mischief, possession of burglary tools, obstructing governmental administration, police said.
The first assault occurred on Jan. 15 on Kinkel Street in Westbury when a 19-year-old victim was approached by the Hernandez brothers as he walked down the street, police said.
“They quickly engage him in conversation and soon Jose Hernandez pulls out a large machete and slashes the victim across the face, leaving a 4-inch, deep laceration wound,” said Smith, adding that in that case detectives were “hampered a little bit by witness cooperation.”
LeBrun said the victim had reported the incident in January “but was somewhat uncooperative” with police initially.
In Sunday’s assault at 12:15 a.m., a different 19-year-old victim was the target, police said.
Court documents said the victim was standing in front of his residence on Dover Street when Fidel Hernandez approached him and asked, “why he was laughing.”
The victim replied, “I can laugh whenever I want,” according to the criminal complaint filed in court, and Fidel Hernandez pulled out a machete and struck him twice, cutting him on the stomach.
The victim then punched Fidel Hernandez in the face, and Jose Hernandez pulled out a handgun and fired five shots, the complaint said. Police said the shots were fired “in the direction of our victim” but did not hit him. The attackers fled.
The arrests come as gang violence on Long Island has received national attention with the visit of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who visited after the bodies of four young men believed to be killed by MS-13 gang members were found savagely beaten in a Central Islip park, and pledged to “demolish” the gang.
Four young men — ages 16 to 20 — were found slain in a Central Islip park on April 12, a couple of miles from the federal courthouse where Sessions spoke on April 28.
— William Murphy