Thursday, November 20, 2008

U.S. Marshals apprehend two men in teen slaying - Gazette

by Jason Tomassini | Staff Writer |Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2008

Romero and Milan-Canales detained by fugitive task force in Houston; awaiting extradition to Maryland

Two men sought in connection with the Nov. 1 slaying of a Silver Spring boy on a Ride On bus were apprehended last week on a bus in Texas after fleeing the county, according to Montgomery County Police.

Members of the U.S. Marshal's Fugitive Task Force apprehended Gilmar Leonardo Romero, 20, and Mario Ernesto Milan-Canales, 30, around 10 a.m. Nov. 12 as they were riding a public bus in Houston. County police learned that Romero and Milan-Canales had fled to Texas after arrest warrants were issued Nov. 10.

County police then alerted fugitive task forces across the country to look out for the suspects. Deputy Marshal Alfredo Perez said marshals in his Gulf Coast Violent Offenders Task Force in Texas received intelligence that the two men could be in the Houston area.

While performing surveillance in the Houston area for Romero and Milan-Canales, marshals identified the two boarding a public bus, Perez said. Officers from the Houston Police Department were notified and with their assistance, a traffic stop was performed on the bus, Perez said.

Officers quickly stormed the bus and arrested Romero and Milan-Canales, the only two passengers, without incident, Perez said.

"We got some good information on the general area so everybody spread out and looked for the guys," said Perez of the task force, which includes 30 officers. "[The officers conducting surveillance] weren't there that long and they had pictures [Montgomery County Police] had sent them and, lo and behold, they were walking toward the bus stop."

Romero and Milan-Canales are being held in the Harris County jail in Houston and awaiting extradition to Montgomery County.

Romero and Milan-Canales, whose local addresses are unknown, were allegedly involved in the Nov. 1 slaying of 14-year-old Tai Lam of the 1000 block of Quebec Terrace in Silver Spring, who was shot and killed on a Ride On bus on his way home from downtown Silver Spring with a group of friends.

The warrant for Romero charges him with first-degree murder and the warrant for Milan-Canales charges him with accessory after the fact for first-degree murder. Hector Mauricio Hernandez, 20, of the 8600 block of Flower Ave. in Takoma Park, was arrested Nov. 7 and charged with first-degree murder. He was denied bail.

Although police believe Hernandez was the shooter, prosecutors in the Montgomery County State's Attorney's office allege that Romero had a substantial involvement in Lam's death, said Lucille Baur, a county police spokeswoman, last week.

Police believe all three men are affiliated with the Salvadoran gang MS-13. Perez said one of the men had an MS-13 tattoo on the back of his head. He said the task force has seen a recent increase in the number of MS-13 members its officers apprehend.

County police believe Hernandez is an illegal immigrant but could not confirm the immigration status of Romero and Milan-Canales.

"We have the three people that were primarily involved in this incident and have the charges in place for them," Baur said Thursday. "We are continuing to investigate and there is the possibility that someone else can be charged."

Lam was riding home from downtown Silver Spring the night of the shooting with a group of 10 to 12 friends, when three to four men got on the bus at a Sligo Avenue stop in Silver Spring. Another man, who police say was Hernandez, got on the bus at another stop shortly after.

Lam Cao, Tai Lam's 16-year-old brother, said some of the men were taunting other passengers on the bus. Police say there was a verbal exchange between the men and the group of youths riding with Tai Lam and Lam Cao. As the men were getting off the bus at Piney Branch Road and Arliss Street, one of them, who police say was Hernandez, turned and fired several shots into the bus near the rear door, striking three teenagers who were together at the back of the bus.

The youths were taken to the hospital. Two survived, but Tai Lam was pronounced dead upon his arrival at Washington Adventist Hospital in Takoma Park, according to charging documents.

A preliminary hearing for Hernandez is scheduled for Dec. 5 in Montgomery County District Court.

Court dates for Romero and Milan-Canales will be scheduled after they arrive in the county. Perez said Romero and Milan-Canales waived their rights to an extradition hearing in Texas, clearing them to be returned to the county as soon as possible

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