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Expert: Same gun used in 4 of 5 MS-13 killings

A Suffolk County Sheriff's Department photo of an

A Suffolk County Sheriff's Department photo of an MS13 gang tattoo on a gang member. Credit: Handout, 2007

A firearms expert testified Wednesday that the same gun figured in four of the five killings that two leaders of the MS-13 street gang are being tried in connection with in federal court.

Charles Hopkins, a firearms examiner with the Suffolk County Crime Laboratory, said his analysis of spent shell casings showed that the same .22-caliber pistol was used in the killings of Vanessa Argueta, 19, of Hempstead, and her 2-year-old son, Diego Torres, in Central Islip in February 2010; Nestor Moreno, 22, a security guard at a Hempstead bar in March 2010.

He said it was also the gun that jammed when used in an attempt to kill Mario Quijada, 25, of Far Rockaway, also in March 2010.

Quijada, an MS-13 member who refused to kill members of rival gangs, was butchered with a machete and knives when the pistol malfunctioned, according to previous trial testimony.

MS-13 leaders Heriberto Martinez, 25, of Far Rockaway, and Carlos Ortega, 23, of Brentwood, are also on trial in connection with the February 2010 shooting death of David Sandler, 20, also of Brentwood. He was a marijuana dealer who was mistaken for a member of the rival Latin Kings, according to prior testimony.

The gun used in that killing has not been found.

Testimony at the trial in U.S. District Court in Central Islip has indicated that members of MS-13 had few guns, so they were passed around to be used by local chapters.

Under questioning by Assistant U.S. Attorney John Durham, Hopkins said he determined that shell casings found at the scenes of the Argueta, Torres and Moreno killings had been fired from the gun found on the beach at the site of Quijada's killing.

Earlier in the day, a cellphone tower expert testified that his analysis of phone records showed that Martinez and two other members of MS-13 were near the Hempstead bar the night that security guard Moreno was killed.

Under questioning by Assistant U.S. Attorney Raymond Tierney, that expert, Eduardo Orellana, also testified that the records showed that Martinez and other members of MS-13 were nearby the night gang member Quijada was killed.

In her cross-examination of Orellana, one of Martinez's defense attorneys, Elizabeth Macedonio, tried to show that there were many reasons why records indicating the locations of cellphone calls could be incorrect.


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