Federal prosecutors in New York on Thursday announced the indictment of 13 gang members for the brutal killing of three high-school students on Long Island last fall. The indicted members of the MS-13 gang allegedly attacked and butchered two high-school girls with a machete and baseball bats last September. Another victim, the girls’ classmate, disappeared last June, and his body was later found at an abandoned psychiatric hospital. Officials said Nisa Mickens, 15, and Kayla Cuevas, 16, were allegedly ambushed after a social-media feud. Their classmate, 18-year-old Jose Pena-Hernandez, was allegedly killed by fellow gang members after being lured to the woods to meet them. “While violence and brutality are trademarks of the MS-13 gang, the murders of these three teens are particularly disturbing,” U.S. Attorney Robert Capers said at a press conference.
The 13 gang members are facing a slew of charges, including seven murders, attempted murders, arson, and conspiracy, Capers said. The MS-13 gang, otherwise known as La Mara Salvatrucha, is considered one of Long Island’s largest and most violent street gangs. It’s thought to have originated in Los Angeles in the 1980s before spreading to other communities, with many of its members having fled civil war in El Salvador. The indictment of the gang’s 13 members—with 10 of them identified by prosecutors as undocumented immigrants from El Salvador and Honduras—comes amid a heated national debate over immigration.