The family of Michael Lopez Banegas, one of four young men found slain last week in a Central Islip park, sobbed and screamed in anguish Thursday morning as his body was carried out of St. Anne’s Roman Catholic Church.
Banegas’ mother and other relatives draped themselves over the coffin following a funeral Mass at the Brentwood church.
“Michael! Why did they do this to my boy?” Lourdes Banegas wailed in Spanish. “Why?”
The 20-year-old Honduran immigrant was remembered by his family as a happy-go-lucky kid who liked to play soccer.
“Everyone loved him,” said Luis Banegas, an uncle. “But things have to happen sometimes.”
The bodies of Banegas and three other young men were discovered April 12 in the park at Lowell Avenue and Clayton Street. Suffolk County police say the brutal killings were the work of the MS-13 gang, which has been linked to similar slayings in the Brentwood area.
While Banegas’ family was mourning at St. Anne’s, a funeral for another victim, Jorge Tigre, was underway about 19 miles east at St. Joseph the Worker Roman Catholic Church in East Patchogue.
The Rev. Martin Curtin, the church’s pastor, told Tigre’s family and friends — including scores of the 18-year-old’s Bellport High School classmates — that the joy Tigre brought to their lives was a reflection of God.
“This one is yours, Lord,” Curtin said of Tigre. “You have to take him. You have to take him home.”
Curtin said Tigre and his family came to Long Island eight or nine years ago from their native Ecuador. Tigre’s three brothers and two sisters told him he had a generous spirit — even when it came time to clean the house.
Tigre was an honor student at Bellport High and his family said he dreamed of one day becoming a police officer.
His sister, Monica, 20, told Newsday that MS-13 had targeted Tigre after he began to keep his distance from friends in the gang.
Diocese of Rockville Centre Auxiliary Bishop Nelson Perez told mourners that the violence perpetrated against Tigre and the others was an assault against the entire community.
“In Christ Jesus, we are the body,” Perez said. “When a member of the body suffers, we all suffer. . . . We will pray for the end of all violence so we will have peace and healing.”
Tigre was buried afterward at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Coram.
A funeral was held Wednesday for another victim, 16-year-old Justin Llivicura of East Patchogue.
A service has not yet been scheduled for the fourth victim — Banegas’ cousin, Jefferson Villalobos, 20, of Pompano Beach, Florida. His family is considering transporting his body to Honduras, his mother, Francis Villalobos, told Newsday earlier this week.
The quadruple slayings occurred about six weeks after a half-dozen MS-13 members were charged in a federal indictment in the deaths of Brentwood teens Kayla Cuevas and Nisa Mickens. The indictment, which claims the girls were attacked by gang members armed with baseball bats and machetes, also alleges MS-13 killed fellow gang member Jose Pena-Hernandez.
“After the arrests we had the sense that we are, in some part, done with the gangs,” said the Rev. Stanislaw Wadowski, the St. Anne’s pastor. “So it [the quadruple slaying] came really as a blow.”
Suffolk Police Commissioner Timothy Sini has vowed to bring the killers of the four young men to justice and said law-enforcement is working to “eradicate” MS-13 from Central Islip, Brentwood and neighboring communities.
Suffolk police are working closely with the FBI and the U.S. attorney’s office to solve the case, Sini said.
Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford), meanwhile, said this week that he will hold a congressional hearing on MS-13 in Central Islip in the next four to six weeks.
Wadowski said Banegas will be buried in his native Honduras.
Many of the St. Anne’s mourners wore T-shirts with the young man’s picture on the front. “You will forever be in our hearts,” the inscription on some of the shirts said in Spanish.
Diocese of Rockville Centre Auxiliary Bishop Andrzej Zglejszewski said the killers will eventually face a higher power.
“Jesus is the Lord, and He is going to be the one who will judge this evil at the end of time,” he said.