- The Washington Times - Monday, June 27, 2005

Montgomery County Police are searching for a group of men who claimed to be members of the MS-13 street gang and stabbed a man Sunday night after a soccer game in Gaithersburg.

The victim, a 30-year-old Hispanic man, was found by police on a field at Gaithersburg Middle School at about 9:18 p.m., police said. He suffered minor injuries and was flown to a local hospital for treatment.

The victim and other players were talking after an adult pickup soccer game when they were approached by a group of young Hispanic men wearing bandanas over their faces, police said. They announced that they were members of MS-13 and were carrying knives and bats. One said he had a gun.

Concern about gangs in Montgomery County has been growing.

As many as 22 gangs with 560 members might be active in the county, according to a report issued in September by a task force set up to study the problem in Prince George’s and Montgomery counties. The gangs have a strong presence in Gaithersburg, Wheaton, Rockville and Takoma Park.

The Joint County Gang Prevention Task Force was organized in February 2004 by Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan and Prince George’s County Executive Jack B. Johnson. It found that the Washington area might be home to as many as to 3,600 gang members.

Mara Salvatrucha — known as MS-13 — was formed 20 years ago in Los Angeles by refugees from El Salvador. It has expanded to as many as 10,000 members in the United States and 50,000 worldwide.

In Virginia, estimates have placed MS-13 membership at 2,000, making it the largest gang in the state.

A federal jury in Alexandria sentenced MS-13 members Ismael Cisneros and Oscar A. Grande to life in prison on June 14 for the killing of a 17-year-old government informant.

The jury deadlocked on a death sentence for the pair, who stabbed Brenda Paz to death in July 2003, when she was 16 weeks pregnant.

The gang has become notorious for several machete attacks. An 18-year-old Springfield man was attacked May 29, and gang member Wilber Rivera was charged in connection with a Jan. 3 incident that left a 24-year-old Fairfax County man with multiple wounds, including three severed fingers.

In Maryland, MS-13 member Mario Ayala was convicted Jan. 28 of first-degree murder of a rival gang member after Prince George’s County prosecutors used testimony from a gang expert to illustrate MS-13’s viciousness.

Police officials in the Montgomery and Prince George’s issued a warning to officers in November that MS-13 members were planning to ambush and kill them when they responded to service calls.

Earlier this year, FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III ordered the creation of a task force to combat MS-13, marking the first time that a nationwide task force had been created to investigate a single gang.