- The Washington Times - Friday, September 5, 2003

Arlington County police have charged a Hispanic gang member with conspiring to kill a police officer, the first arrest since authorities learned last year that gang members were being sent to the Washington area to target police.

The Washington Times first reported in August 2002 that an international Hispanic gang known as MS-13 that had ties to the District, Maryland and Virginia sent about 20 of its members from California to Fairfax County to kill a police officer at random. No police officers in the area have been killed in gang-related incidents.

Detectives with Arlington County’s gang and homicide/robbery units on Wednesday arrested Freddy Alberto Juarez, of the 5500 block of Columbia Pike, and charged him with conspiracy to commit murder and participation in a criminal street gang.

Mr. Juarez, 24, faces 30 years in prison if convicted of the two felony charges.

Police said they took into custody another individual, but they have not released any details.

Matthew Martin, a spokesman for the Arlington County Police Department, said the officer who had been threatened was a member of the gang investigations unit. He would not comment on the specific nature of the threat.

“We were clearly convinced [that Mr. Juarez] was actually intending to do this, and our officer’s life was in danger,” Mr. Martin said. The officer remains on duty.

Mr. Martin said further arrests and more charges could be forthcoming. He declined to say what gang Mr. Juarez was affiliated with. He said police have stopped identifying gangs because they don’t want to “credit” certain gangs and inspire others to imitate.

Police said Wednesday’s arrest stemmed from a multijurisdictional investigation that began last year after authorities received intelligence about the threat to officers.

The MS-13 gang members from California were dispatched “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, 2002.

Last month, Fairfax County police estimated that about 4,300 gang members operate in Northern Virginia. The largest gang is the Salvadoran gang MS-13, which has an estimated 3,000 members in the area.

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.” Gang members settled in Latino communities in Los Angeles and the District, and have since spread to 15 states.

Disputes among rival Hispanic gangs in the District in the past two months resulted in shootings that killed four persons and injured two.

D.C. police on Thursday issued arrest warrants in the July 28 gang-related shooting in Columbia Heights that left a Silver Spring man dead and three others injured.

In that case, police charged Guillermo Somarriba-Gonzales, 24, and Gypsy Deskins, 20, both of no fixed address, in the fatal shooting of Erlin Noe Gutierrez, 22. The shootings occurred at 14th and Chapin streets NW. Police said the shooting was gang-related.

Last month, District officials set up a partnership of public and private agencies aimed at reducing gang violence.

In May, Virginia Attorney General Jerry W. Kilgore formed a statewide gang task force that will recommend solutions to the growing problem of youth violence.

Law-enforcement authorities from more than a half-dozen Northern Virginia police departments formed the 10th Congressional District Gang Task Force in July to focus on intelligence gathering and special investigations of gang activity. Arlington County police credited the task force for assisting in the investigation that led to Mr. Juarez’s arrest.

Herndon Police Chief Toussaint Summers, who heads the task force, said the increased cooperation means that gang members can’t “hide behind jurisdictional boundaries.”

“It shows that the task force works,” Chief Summers said.

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