Youth Convicted for Orchestrating Gang Attack (VIDEO)

Jose Zaldivar-Medina | Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office

A 17-year-old Montgomery Village teenager was convicted Thursday for ordering assaults on two victims just because they were wearing the wrong gang colors near the Lakeforest mall, the State’s Attorney’s Office said Friday.

Jose Zaldivar-Medina, who was described as a member of the violent MS-13 gang, faces 63 years in prison for the April 7, 2016, assault on the two victims and other charges, State’s Attorney John McCarthy said in a Montgomery County Circuit Court news conference.

McCarthy said the case was unusual that it was the second time the county has been able to win a conviction using the state’s gang statute, passed about eight years ago. He said the statute is too unwieldy to use and that prosecutors need new tools to be able to combat gang violence.

Zaldivar’s lawyer, Paul Zmuda, said: “Although I disagree with the verdict, I respect the jury’s decision.” He said an appeal was under consideration.

Zaldivar was born in Honduras. McCarthy said he didn’t know his immigration status.

According to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, MS-13 is a national and transnational gang composed primarily of immigrants or descendants from El Salvador.  Branches or “cliques” of MS-13, one of the largest street gangs in the United States, operate throughout Montgomery, Prince George’s and Frederick counties.

MS-13 members are required to commit acts of violence to maintain membership and discipline within the gang. One of the principal rules of MS-13 is that its members must attack and kill rivals, known as “chavalas,” whenever possible, ICE says.

Four members of MS-13 spotted the two victims at the mall, which the gang considers its territory, McCarthy said. Because the two victims were wearing red, the MS-13 members thought they were members of a rival gang, McCarthy said.

He said neither of the victims was a member of any gang. The police report of the incident withheld the victims’ names.

McCarthy said Zaldivar, thinking they were rival gang members, ordered the other MS-13 members slash the tires of the car to prevent their escape. Zaldivar, according to the police report, called on the gang members “to assault and scare” the victims.

At the news conference, McCarthy said the county needed to do more to address gang violence.

“We have to wake up here in Montgomery County,” he said.

In talking with reporters, McCarthy covered a number of topics, including the role of immigration in the county’s gang violence, as well as the need for Montgomery County police to have more resources to combat the problem.

Although MS-13 was founded in El Salvador, McCarthy also said he wasn’t sure Montgomery County’s gang problem centered on immigration. He said he believed the gangs included native-born Americans.

“I’m frustrated right now,” he said.

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Douglas Tallman

About Douglas Tallman

Reporter with 35 years experience throughout Maryland. Reach me at dtallman@mymcmedia.org or via Twitter at @MCM-Doug

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