The arrest of two MS-13 gang members Thursday in Hempstead on charges they murdered a man outside a bodega in Flushing in May could be the opening round of more city cases targeting the violent street gang, according to law enforcement sources.
Police said Roberto Abrego Reyes, 27, known as “Splinter,” and Jose Alvarenga Ramirez, 23, known as “Smoker,” were each charged with murder and criminal possession of a loaded firearm after their arrests by Queens homicide detectives during the execution of a search-warrant at a residence on Princeton Street.
Both men, immigrants from El Salvador, were expected to be arraigned late Friday on charges they were involved in the May 30 slaying of Fernando Gonzalez-Chavez, 39, on 162nd Street. They were arrested in a joint operation by the NYPD and Nassau County police. In a news release Queens District Attorney Richard Brown identified the suspects as Roberto Abrego and Jose Alvarenga, without the additional surnames.
The announcement of the arrests Friday came on the day President Donald Trump appeared in Brentwood to speak about the administration’s commitment to rooting out the violent street gang.
The Queens homicide is the second case in recent weeks in which investigators believe they have found a tie-in between MS-13 elements in New York City and Long Island. Several weeks ago the body of a reputed 16-year-old MS-13 gang member was found in Alley Pond Park in Oakland Gardens and NYPD detectives have been collaborating with Suffolk and Nassau police, as well as federal investigators in that murder probe, officials said.
Friday, NYPD officials indicated that other city investigations into MS-13 activities were underway and that there may be developments, particularly in the northeast Queens area, in the coming weeks.
In a statement, Brown said that just before midnight on Tuesday, May 30, 2017, Gonzalez-Chavez was outside a deli at 40-38 162nd St. in Flushing when one of the defendants, wearing a hoodie, was seen on surveillance video walking up to Gonzalez-Chavez and shooting him once in the chest. Brown didn’t say which of the two suspects fired at the victim but said both were acting in concert.
In Thursday’s raid in Hempstead, an NYPD spokesman said five guns — three 9-mm handguns, one .22 caliber pistol and an air gun — were also recovered. None of the guns was the murder weapon in the Gonzalez-Chavez case, the police spokesman said.
The motive behind the murder of Gonzalez-Chavez, of Bayside, Queens, remained unclear as of Friday. An NYPD official said cops were looking at robbery as one motive but had not ruled out some kind of MS-13 initiation. The official said Gonzalez-Chavez was an MS-13 member.
While MS-13 gang activity has been widely reported on Long Island, New York City has been relatively calm. NYPD intelligence reports assert that the gang has about 132 members in the city, mostly in Queens. However, there are indications that Long Island crews have been crossing into the city to commit crimes, said one high-ranked NYPD official.