Long Island authorities on Wednesday said a homeless man scheduled to testify against MS-13 gang members was killed earlier in the week.
Wilmer Maldonado Rodriguez, 36, had been attacked previously in October 2018 by nine members of the MS-13 gang after he stepped in to stop them from intimidating two teens. They were arrested as a result, with Maldonado prepared to testify against them.
Nassau Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder explained that on January 30, one of the witnesses from the trial was shot at.
Rodriguez was beaten up two days later but managed to escaped, Ryder explained to News 12.
The 36-year-old was killed on Sunday, police state.
His body was found behind an abandoned home in New Cassel on Broadway.
According to the Nassau District Attorney’s Office, Rodriguez had been protecting the teens when he was beaten and stabbed by gang members calling themselves the ‘Gang of Nine.’
All nine were arrested and charged with assault and witness intimidation and are still currently behind bars.
Authorities initially believed that Rodriguez’s identity was released because of new discovery laws in the state that went into effect on January 1 and would allow for defendants to be informed of the witnesses testifying against them.
But Ryder released a statement stating that that was not the case.
‘As I indicted at my press conference there is no direct link between the death of Wilmer Maldonado Rodriguez and criminal justice reform,’ he said. ‘The information and facts of the case that I provided are accurate.’
MS13, an international gang was founded in Los Angeles in the 1980s by immigrants fleeing a civil war in El Salvador.
MS-13 now has 8,000-10,000 members in the U.S. alone – most of Salvadoran, Guatemalan and Honduran descent.
While MS-13 has been around for decades, law enforcement officials on Long Island say the region has seen a unique surge in activity since 2015 – the same time the area received a major influx of unaccompanied minors from Latin America.
MS-13 leaders in the U.S. often communicate and take orders from gang leaders in El Salvador.
Long Island communities have been strongly impacted by the violence and suffering spread by MS-13.
Police suspect the gang was involved in at least 25 killings on Long Island between 2016 and 2018.
The gang’s motto is ‘mata, viola, controla’ which means ‘kill, rape, control’.