The brutal killing of four young men found in a Central Islip park Wednesday, with its ominous gang-soaked aura, feels like an installment in a serial drama many Long Islanders simply can’t imagine happening in their backyard. The four men were probably slashed with machetes, and likely for no good reason beyond youth and hate.
Widespread attention to gang violence in Brentwood intensified in September when Kayla Cuevas, 16, and Nisa Mickens, 15, were beaten to death over a dispute involving the street gang MS-13. Soon thereafter, Jose Pena Hernandez, 18, was killed, likely for talking to law enforcement. The ensuing, multi-agency investigation led to indictments for 13 MS-13 members six weeks ago, in those three homicides and four others that were uncovered.
So now the toll is 11 and the fear creeps further, into Central Islip, and further east to Bellport, where two missing males may be two of the dead. The multi-community nature of the spreading violence may well indicate a battle between MS-13 factions. Law enforcement officials and experts say for MS-13 such killings are less about financial disputes over drug-dealing territories than violence for its own sake.
This violent wave is mostly related to the recent influx of unaccompanied young men from nations like El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, officials say. Some arrive with a callous disregard for the value of life and find MS-13 a welcome support system.
Suffolk County Police Commissioner Tim Sini called this “a long-term war,” and that’s true, but the immediate response must be to overwhelm: with patrols, investigation, and good intelligence. The perpetrators must pay. The violence must stop.— The editorial board