Monday, November 10, 2008

Man, 20, Charged In Bus Shooting - Washington Post

By Daniel de Vise and Aaron C. Davis
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, November 9, 2008; C01

Montgomery County police said yesterday that they had arrested a 20-year-old Takoma Park man, who is allegedly affiliated with a Latino gang, in the fatal shooting of a 14-year-old honor student on a crowded bus in Silver Spring on Nov. 1.

Police said the alleged shooter, Hector M. Hernandez, was arrested Friday afternoon at a fast food restaurant in Langley Park, in neighboring Prince George's County. Lt. Paul Starks, a Montgomery police spokesman, said Hernandez is an illegal immigrant from El Salvador.

Hernandez was being held at the Montgomery County Detention Center on a first-degree murder charge.

Starks said the investigation could prompt as many as four additional arrests. "There were other people there at the time of the event," he said. "Whether they will be prosecuted or not remains to be seen."

Police said that Hernandez was affiliated with Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, an international gang with a strong presence in the Washington area. Some members are immigrants from El Salvador and other countries in Central America.

The killing is the first in the Maryland suburbs that police have publicly linked to an affiliate of MS-13 in more than a year, although police say gang members have been suspected in other slayings.

Police said they were not certain whether gang affiliation played a role in the shooting, in which Tai Lam, a freshman at Montgomery Blair High School, was killed.

They said Hernandez boarded a county Ride On bus in Silver Spring with a group of friends. Hernandez's group exchanged words with a larger group of 10 to 12, none of them gang members, police said.

Investigators say the group, including Hernandez, exited the bus near Piney Branch Road and Arliss Street.

As they got off, witnesses said, one member of the group held a rear door open, and a gunman fired several shots into the bus, striking three teenagers inside.

Lam was killed, and two other teenagers -- ages 14 and 15 -- were wounded. Those two teens have been released from the hospital and are recovering, police said.

Lam's funeral was held yesterday. On Friday night, at Montgomery Blair's homecoming football game, Lam was named a member of the Homecoming Court -- something he had been campaigning for before he was killed.

A source with knowledge of the case, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing, said Montgomery and Prince George's police have identified two men with Hernandez during the shooting as also being members of MS-13. Police were searching for the two, the source said.

A MySpace page that the source confirmed was connected to Hernandez contains images of him flashing MS-13 gang signs, plus several paragraphs in Spanish that allude to gang violence.

Lam's death and the shooting on the crowded public transit bus run counter to a decline in violent crimes attributed to MS-13 in recent years in suburban Maryland. The shooting was a blow to a three-year-old campaign to curb gang violence in Montgomery.

Tomorrow at 7 p.m. in the Blair High auditorium, county authorities will brief residents on the investigation, give updates on safety and gangs and provide "a collective space for continued grieving and healing," officials said.

No comments: