EAST PATCHOGUE, N.Y. (AP) — The mother of one of four young men found slain in a suburban New York park in what police suspect was the work of a street gang called for her community to support police as she left her 16-year-old son's emotional funeral.
"I hope that if he is caught, justice is done," Blanca Llivicura told reporters as she left a funeral Mass on Wednesday for her son, Justin Llivicura. He was among the victims of what police suspect was the latest of an onslaught of killings by the MS-13 street gang. Eleven victims have been found dead in two adjoining communities, Brentwood and Central Islip, since September.
The four men found April 12 in a community park near a children's playground and soccer field all suffered what police described as "significant trauma" wounds inflicted by sharp instruments. The other victims included two 18-year-olds and a 20-year-old man.
Police have offered a $25,000 reward to solve the case, but so far no suspects have been identified. Suffolk County Police Commissioner Timothy Sini said the tactics employed in the killings — using sharp instruments and extreme violence — are consistent with MS-13, which has been gaining a foothold on Long Island for years.
President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions both mentioned MS-13 on Tuesday, and Sessions specifically referenced the Long Island killings before meeting with top federal law enforcement officials on ways to dismantle ultraviolent transnational gangs.
"We cannot allow this to continue. We will secure our border, expand immigration enforcement, and choke-off supply lines. If you are a gang member: We will find you," Sessions said.
Trump later tweeted that "Sessions is doing a fantastic job: announced today new steps to dismantle violent gangs like MS-13. I promised to get tough and we are!"
As she was escorted to an SUV that followed her son's hearse to a cemetery, the grieving mother said in Spanish, "Police always need support because no parent should go through what happened to me, again. The way in which my son died is very ugly."
Police kept a low-key presence around St. Joseph the Worker Church.
Mostly Ecuadorian friends and relatives of Justin remembered him in a ceremony full of Catholic songs in Spanish and with a photo of the 16-year-old close to the altar. In a church filled with the aroma of incense and the occasional noise of crying babies, Rev. Martin Curtin prayed for the end of violence against young people in Long Island.
A wake for another victim is Wednesday night and a funeral Mass for a third victim will be held Thursday at the same church where Justin's was held. There has been no word on funeral arrangements for the fourth victim.
The discovery of the bodies comes about a month after the arrest of eight MS-13 members in connection with the September killings of two teenage girls in nearby Brentwood.
MS-13, also called Mara Salvatrucha, is believed to have been founded as a neighborhood street gang in Los Angeles in the mid-1980s by immigrants fleeing a civil war in El Salvador. It grew after some members were deported to El Salvador, helping turn that country into one of the most violent places in the world.
It's now a major international criminal enterprise with tens of thousands of members in several Central American countries and many U.S. states.
Curtin said Justin and his sister had once been in a church youth group at St. Joseph.
"He was a nice kid," the pastor said a day before the funeral. "He liked working on cars better than going to school," he said. "A nice, solid kid."
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This story has been corrected to show 11 bodies have been found since September, not 11 killed since September.