1 Fort Lauderdale
Local Search & News & Reviews
A band of thieves and killers from the notorious MS-13 street gang — five of them teenagers — have been prowling the streets of Lake Worth, where they shot two men to death while robbing them, police said.
The six, all from El Salvador and Honduras, were in the U.S. illegally, authorities said.
“Their intent was not just to rob, but to rob and murder victims in their own community,” said Chief Frank DeMario, chief of Law Enforcement Operations for the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office. “These are young children that just openly shoot somebody and kill you. There’s no remorse.”
Police on Friday did not identify the five teens, who are 16 and 17 years old. The sole adult charged was Victor Manuel Fuentes, 20, of West Palm Beach.
The investigation started after a series of robberies over the past two months in Lake Worth. Police have not said how many robberies occurred. All of the victims were men working as laborers, according to investigators.
Fuentes robbed Lucio Velasquez-Morales, 33, on Oct. 30 in Lake Worth, then shot the victim as he ran away, according to Fuentes’ arrest report. He told investigators a demon inside his head made him pull the trigger, deputies said.
Velasquez-Morales was found dead in front of a home on South H Street. Deputies found five Winchester .40-caliber bullet casings around him and gunshot wounds to his heart and liver. His family said he was missing a Bluetooth speaker.
Less than a week after blowing the stolen $100 on drugs, alcohol and gas, Fuentes robbed and shot Octavio Sanches-Morales, 25, on Nov. 5 in Lake Worth, police said.
Sanches-Morales was found dead in an alley on the 400 block of South F Street, shot in his jaw and right arm. A surveillance camera captured Sanches-Morales riding his bike down the alley when an SUV drove past him and stopped, according to Fuentes’ arrest report.
Several people run out of the SUV just as Sanches-Morales goes out of the video frame. Seconds later, the people run back into the car and take off. About three minutes later, someone called 911 reporting the gunfire, according to the report.
It’s unclear what was stolen from Sanches-Morales.
Fuentes and two of the juveniles have been connected to both killings, police said. The three other juveniles have been linked only to the killing of Sanches-Morales.
All six suspects face charges of first-degree murder and robbery with a firearm.
The arrests are not part of a recent nationwide crackdown on the Central American MS-13 gang, but those arrested just happened to be members, officials said.
The investigation is continuing and more arrests are possible, said sheriff’s Sgt. Christopher Karpinski.
Police worry that the investigation could be hampered if victims or witnesses fear contacting law enforcement because of their immigration status.
“Unfortunately, we feel that our suspects were targeting their victims because they believe our victims would not report it and would not resist,” Karpinski said.
DeMario emphasized that the sheriff’s office isn’t going to ask people’s immigration status when they report a crime.
People can contact the sheriff’s office or call Crime Stoppers of Palm Beach County, anonymously, at 800-458-8477 and be eligible for a reward of up to $1,000 for information that leads to an arrest.