The Prince William County Police Department (PWPCD) has charged 12 people for the 2019 murders of four men. The murders were linked to MS-13 drug trafficking operations bringing cocaine from New York to local vendors in northern Virginia. According to a press release, 11 of the 12 suspects are in custody.
In a press conference Tuesday, PWCPD Acting Chief Jarad Phelps said, “Milton Lopez and Jairo Mayorga were brutally assaulted and shot and killed. That case was in June, and we have been continually investigating that since that occurred, following all leads.”
Phelps added, “We also had the murder of Eric Tate who was shot and killed while walking down the street to meet an acquaintance. And then on September 24, 2019 there was Antonio Smith who was shot and killed in the area of Chesapeake Drive just walking down the road.”
“All four of these individuals had no connection that we know of,” Phelps said. The investigation was conducted in partnership with the Northern Virginia Gang Task Force (NVGTF) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Washington Field Office.
Authorities said the suspects are alleged to be part of the Los Sitios clique, a local branch of MS-13. FBI Special Agent James Dawson said, “We’ve been able to identify, disrupt, and ultimately dismantle the Los Sitios clique of MS-13 here in Prince William County.”
Dawson added, “The arrested subjects are alleged to have brought cocaine from New York to sell in northern Virginia in furtherance of the MS-13 criminal enterprise.”
Phelps said the crimes were especially disturbing because the victims had no relation to the gang. Officials at the conference would not say what the motives for the murders were, but the PWCPD press release states, “To further the suspect’s standing within MS-13 itself, victims were targeted at random and murdered, posing a significant safety concern in this community. These victims included Mayorga, Tate, and Smith as no other connection between the suspects or criminal activity was identified during the investigation.”
“Traditionally when we deal with gang crime it’s generally gang on gang,” NVGTF Executive Director Jay Landham said. “There is still a very large number of gang members here in northern Virginia.”
Landham continued, “The gangs are still very active out there. They’re still trafficking narcotics, guns, sex trafficking, extortion, but the violent crime is the most concerning to us of course.”
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