Federal investigators and Nassau police believe the teenager whose remains were found last week on the Baldwin-Roosevelt border was killed by members of the MS-13 street gang, according to sources familiar with the investigation.
Police and federal authorities have declined to publicly say who they believe is responsible for the death of Angel Soler, 16, of Roosevelt.
Nassau Acting Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder said in a statement Tuesday: “It is too early in the investigation to comment on if there is any nexus to any gang affiliation.”
The sources would not detail why they believed MS-13 members killed Soler, who has been a student at Freeport High School.
Soler’s mother, Suyapa Soler, has spoken with the police about her son’s disappearance and said over the weekend that she believed he was the victim of a gang killing.
But she declined to elaborate and Tuesday said police “haven’t told me it was gangs” that were responsible for her son’s death, adding: “I don’t have anything to say about this.”
Typically, MS-13 targets for killing those who members believe have disrespected the gang or are members of rival gangs.
Nassau police, acting on a tip from federal Homeland Security Investigations, discovered Soler’s body Thursday in a wooded area, He was identified Sunday and had been missing for three months.
Long Island’s MS-13 activity has drawn the attention of the federal government. On Monday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said that federal investigators will go after the notorious street gang with “renewed vigor and a sharpened focus.”
Sessions, speaking at a gathering of the International Association of Police Chiefs in Philadelphia, said the Justice Department’s Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force will be brought to bear on the gang. The task force includes DEA and FBI agents, U.S. Postal Inspectors, the Coast Guard, the Department of Labor and the Internal Revenue Service.
In April, speaking at the federal courthouse in Central Islip, Sessions promised “to demolish” MS-13 after the brutally mutilated bodies of four young men were discovered in a Central Islip park.
Shortly afterward, the separate FBI’s Long Island Gang Task Force arrested MS-13 members and associates who were charged with the murders.
Since the early 2000s, federal prosecutors and the FBI’s gang task force, working with local police, have successfully prosecuted hundreds of MS-13 and members of other gangs for murders and other violent crimes, using the stringent federal RICO and illegal use of firearms statutes.
But some experts who have studied MS-13 have said the gang’s membership in the United States ebbs and flows not with law enforcement but with economics and the state of violence in Central America, where most members of that gang come from. After a round of arrests and prosecutions, “the brothers,” meaning the next generation of gang members, come to the United States, they say.
Suyapa Soler, speaking in Spanish, told Newsday on Sunday that she had come to the United States from Honduras 11 years ago and had brought her son here four years ago to protect him from the gang violence that was brutalizing their home city of San Pedro Sula.
Angel Soler was also friendly with two other people who have been students at Freeport High School who also disappeared, according to the mother of one of them.
Lilian Oliva, the mother of Kerin Pineda, said her son disappeared in May of 2016. Oliva said another classmate, Josué David Amaya, disappeared in September of 2016.
With David Olson and Nicole Fuller