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Man pleads not guilty in gang shooting

A member of the MS-13 street gang has been charged with attempted murder for shooting two men he thought belonged to a rival street gang, according to officials and court papers.

Edwin Hernandez, 21, of Bay Shore, pleaded not guilty late Thursday in U.S. District Court in Central Islip in the October 2011 shooting of the two men he believed were members of the Bloods street gang, officials said.

The victims survived, according to court papers. The papers did not disclose whether the victims belonged to a rival gang or list the extent of their wounds.

Hernandez was held without bail by Magistrate A. Kathleen Tomlinson. Hernandez's attorney could not be reached for comment. Assistant U.S. Attorney John Durham declined to comment.

Hernandez, a Honduras native who previously had entered the U.S. illegally, had been deported before the shooting, but he secretly returned to the United States, sources familiar with the case said.

According to a complaint filed in federal court by an FBI agent, who is a member of the Long Island Gang Task Force, Hernandez admitted that on the night of the shooting he and another unnamed member of MS-13 "agreed to 'put in work' and they drove around Central Islip in order to 'hunt and kill' rival gang members."

When he was initiated into MS-13, Hernandez said he had agreed to kill chavalas, a Spanish slang term that, according to some dictionaries, could mean "punks" or "kids" in English, but is "an MS-13 term for rival gang members," the FBI agent said.

As he and the other member of MS-13 were driving down Clift Street in Central Islip, Hernandez said they "saw a group of African-Americans they believed to be rival gang members," Hernandez told the FBI agent.

Hernandez was armed with a .22-caliber handgun and the other member had a 9-mm handgun, the FBI agent said. Hernandez said he and the other MS-13 member parked their car about 1 a.m., walked toward the group of African-Americans and "each fired several shots, before fleeing," the agent said. Hernandez faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

Currently, about 40 MS-13 members on Long Island are being held and are awaiting trial on federal charges, including murder, conspiracy and assault, according to officials.

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