Today’s news:

Suspected MS−13 members charged in Flushing slay

Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said three suspected members of El Salvadorian gang MS−13 were charged last week with the 2006 murder of a 15−year−old Flushing boy that helped galvanize a community against gang violence.

Hector Portillo, 19, Javier Irheta, 21, and Luis Bonilla, 22, were charged with first−degree murder Friday in Brooklyn federal court as part of a large gang sweep that led to the arrest of eight MS−13 members who are collectively charged with 29 counts of murder, attempted murder, assault, racketeering and illegal use of firearms, prosecutors said.

Portillo, Irheta and Bonilla allegedly shot and killed Flushing resident Pashad Gray, who may have been a Blood, in 2006, the U.S. attorney’s office for the Eastern District said.

“Rivalries among criminal street gangs all too often turn neighborhoods into urban battlefields, with innocent victims being caught in the crossfire,” said Brown, whose Queens office took part in the investigation. “Only through the joint and committed efforts of law enforcement on all levels of government can we reduce gang−related violence and reclaim our streets for law−abiding residents.”

Police said Pashad was found with a single gunshot wound to the chest outside 132−40 Sanford Ave., less than a block away from his home early in the morning on Christmas Eve in 2006.

Following the murders of 21−year−old Maurice Parker on May 18, 2007, and 15−year−old Gray on Dec. 24, 2006, the community outcry in southern Flushing was strong, drawing elected officials to rallies against gang violence.

Residents were quick to point the finger at Mara Salvatrucha 13, or MS−13, an El Salvador−based gang which they said had a growing presence in the community and is known for committing wanton acts of violence.

Police sources said the gang does have a presence in Flushing and across the borough of Queens — in the 109th, 113th and 110th precincts in particular — but that MS−13 is far more prominent in Long Island and New Jersey where police coverage is not as extensive

One resident, who knew Pashad and declined to be named because of safety concerns, went so far as to say that tensions between MS−13 and a local faction of the Bloods had been intensifying and could erupt into an all−out gang war. Pashad was listed as a Blood in the NYPD’s criminal records, according to a law enforcement source.

“The defendants have spread fear in our community through wanton violence, including shooting, stabbing and beating their victims,” U.S. Attorney Benton Campbell said in a statement following last week’s indictment. “Today’s charges reflect our unwavering commitment to bring members and associates of violent street gangs to justice.”

As of this week, no one has been arrested in Parker’s murder.

Believed to have formed in the 1980s, MS−13 began in Los Angeles as refugees fled El Salvador’s bloody, decades−long civil war. Its influence has grown rapidly over the last two decades, both domestically and abroad, according to authorities, and the gang has built a reputation as a powerful and ruthless crime conglomerate.

On the Eastern Seaboard, MS−13 has slowly crept up the coast, with North Carolina and the suburbs of Baltimore, Md., becoming major hubs of activity in recent years.

Reach reporter Stephen Stirling by e−mail at Sstirling@timesledger.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 138.

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