NYPD detectives are teaming up with Long Island cops and federal investigators in an effort to solve the killing of a reputed MS-13 gang member whose decomposed body was found May 22 in a Queens park, according to a high-ranking law enforcement official.
The body of Julio Vasquez, 16, was found in a wooded area of Alley Pond Park, his body in a partly skeletonized state with more than two dozen stab wounds to his torso, police said.
Investigators believe Vasquez, who had an arrest record for menacing and robbery, had been dead from three to seven days when bird watchers found his body.
Police are looking at multiple suspects, including two MS-13 members who are believed to have stabbed Vasquez, said the official, adding that DNA evidence is playing a role in the investigation.
“There is not enough yet to make probable cause arrests,” the official said.
NYPD detectives are working with investigators from both the Nassau and Suffolk police departments to see if the suspects are tied to MS-13 activity on Long Island, the official said, emphasizing that gang activity isn’t limited by county boundaries.
When Vasquez’s body was discovered, investigators said, he could have been killed somewhere else and then dumped in the park. One clue — a Los Angeles Dodgers baseball cap — was found near the body. The bird watchers found the body about 100 yards east, southeast of the park entrance at Cloverdale Boulevard, police said.
While MS-13 activity on Long Island has gained national attention and led earlier this week to multiple federal indictments, the gang’s presence in New York City has been more restrained. Earlier this year, an NYPD gang expert said the group numbered about 132 members in the city, compared to a total citywide gang population of about 1,000.
It was also in May that federal prosecutors in Brooklyn charged three men, Jose “Flaco” Gonzalez, Kevin “Stomper” Paniague and Francisco Ramos, on charges of attempted murder and assault in aid of racketeering. All three are considered members of MS-13 and were accused of trying to set up a victim for an attack and shooting on a Queens street in October 2016, according to court papers.