- The Washington Times - Friday, August 16, 2002

An international Latino gang with ties in the District, Maryland and Virginia sent about 20 of its members from California to Fairfax County, Va., last month to kill a county police officer at random.
California members of the MS-13 gang arrived in Fairfax County last month "for the sole purpose of increasing the criminal status of the local MS-13 gang" in Northern Virginia, according to an Officer Safety Alert issued by the Metropolitan Police Department on July 20.
The Leesburg, Va., Police Department had learned that the California members "are upset with the local MS-13 gang because a Fairfax County Police officer has not been killed," the alert said.
The Washington Times has obtained a copy of the alert, which was to be read at roll calls for Metropolitan Police officers. MS-13 has a significant presence in parts of Northwest.
Fairfax County police declined to comment on the situation, saying it would motivate gang members to commit more acts of violence.
"The more notoriety they get, the more they have to fulfill that reputation," said Officer Sophia Grinnan, a county police spokeswoman.
No police officer has been killed in the county since June 2001, when a car fatally struck Capt. Tom Bernal during a vehicle training exercise. Only three officers have been killed in the county since 1940, all in vehicular accidents, police said.
Raul Archer, who works with Latino gangs on the D.C. Youth Gang Task Force, said MS-13 members in Fairfax County may have been ordered to kill a police officer simply "to show that they're really about what they're supposed to be about."
Mr. Archer said the Fairfax gang members "are not as violent as they're supposed to be. They were supposed to take out a police officer, and it didn't happen."
"These guys came from California to see what had happened and straighten things out," he said.
According to the alert, "the Northern Virginia area experienced four shootings and numerous malicious woundings and assaults" after Fairfax County police learned of the gang members' arrival.
On July 31, 15 suspected members of MS-13 were arrested in Leesburg and charged with committing an act of violence by a mob and malicious wounding after a 25-year-old Leesburg man had been struck with a machete.
MS-13 members had tried to target Fairfax County police officers before last month, the alert stated.
There had been two "confirmed cases" in which MS-13 members "tried to lure officers behind buildings in the Culmore area of Fairfax County" to ambush them, the alert said.
Officer Grinnan urged parents to notify police if they receive any gang-related information from their children.
"Every piece of information is followed up on," Officer Grinnan said. "People seem not to want to bother the police, but the police don't mind being bothered, especially if it's about something that's potentially gang-related."
MS-13, which stands for Mara Salvatrucha, originated in the late 1980s, when refugees with La Mara, a street gang in El Salvador, joined forces with Salvadoran guerrillas, known as "salvatruchas."
The number 13 represents the 13th letter of the alphabet, M, which stands for Mexico, said Mr. Archer, adding that the gang is active in Central America, the United States, Mexico and Canada.
"It's well-organized. They run pretty much everything you can think of," he said. "They'll do arms, drugs, whatever it takes to make it."
MS-13 enforces an extensive hierarchy. Each local gang is divided into "cliques," which are further divided into smaller groups.
Members range from 12-year-olds to adults, Mr. Archer said.
"Remember how big the Mafia was?" he said. "Well, we're dealing with something like that."

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