EAST PATCHOGUE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — The mother of one of four young men found brutally slain in a Long Island park in what police suspect was the work of the MS-13 street gang called for her community to support police as she left her 16-year-old son’s emotional funeral.
Justin Llivicura, 16, was among the victims of what police suspect was the latest of an onslaught of killings by the MS-13 street gang — 11 victims have been brutally killed on Long Island since last September.
The four men found April 12 in a community park near a children’s playground and soccer field all suffered what police described as “significant trauma” wounds inflicted by sharp instruments. The other victims included two 18-year-olds and a 20-year-old man.
Police kept a low-key presence around the St. Joseph the Worker Church in East Patchogue where about 200 mourners gathered to bid farewell to the teen.
As Blanca Llivicura was escorted to an SUV that followed her son’s hearse to a cemetery, the grieving mother said in Spanish, “Police always need support because no parent should go through what happened to me, again. The way in which my son died is very ugly.”
“I hope that if he is caught, justice is done,” she added.
Mostly Ecuadorian friends and relatives of Justin remembered him in a ceremony full of Catholic songs in Spanish and with a photo of the 16-year-old close to the altar. In a church filled with the aroma of incense and the occasional noise of crying babies, Rev. Martin Curtin prayed for the end of violence against young people in Long Island.
Curtin said Justin and his sister had once been in a church youth group at St. Joseph.
“He was a nice kid,” the pastor said a day before the funeral. “He liked working on cars better than going to school,” he said. “A nice, solid kid.”
Bishop John Barres of the Diocese of Rockville Centre was also among the mourners. After the Mass, he offered a suggestion on how the community can try to heal heal from the senseless violence.
“Regardless of our faith tradition, regardless of our belief or non-belief all of us are called to be peacemakers on this planet,” Barres said. “We find new, innovative and creative ways to engage in a formation of justice and peace.”
Shawn Owen helps counsel troubled teens. He said Wednesday’s funeral may be the impetus needed to get out of gang life.
“What these children can do is start looking for love in the right places. It may not be at home, start with a teacher, start with someone who’s a mentor, go to your guidance counselor, start with your neighbor, someone who is close to you that may be able to make the impact you’ve been looking for,” he told CBS2’s Jennifer McLogan.
A wake for another victim is Wednesday night and a funeral Mass for a third victim will be held Thursday at the same church where Justin’s was held. There has been no word on funeral arrangements for the fourth victim.
Governor Cuomo has pledged help from Albany.
“I want to talk to the county about that (bringing in state troopers) but that is going to be the conversation, because the most recent killings are just unconscionable, and reprehensible. It’s a situation that’s out of control,” he said.
Police have offered a $25,000 reward to solve the case, but so far no suspects have been identified. Suffolk County Police Commissioner Timothy Sini said the tactics employed in the killings — using sharp instruments and extreme violence — are consistent with MS-13, which has been gaining a foothold on Long Island for years.
“We are working with every single law enforcement agency that operates in this region. We are continuing to collect an enormous amount of intelligence. We are targeting the right people,” Sini said.
The discovery of the bodies comes about a month after the arrest of eight MS-13 members in connection with the September killings of two teenage girls in nearby Brentwood.
MS-13, also called Mara Salvatrucha, is believed to have been founded as a neighborhood street gang in Los Angeles in the mid-1980s by immigrants fleeing a civil war in El Salvador. It grew after some members were deported to El Salvador, helping turn that country into one of the most violent places in the world.
It’s now a major international criminal enterprise with tens of thousands of members in several Central American countries and many U.S. states.
On Tuesday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the Justice Department will crack down on violent gangs like MS-13 which he said “represent one of the gravest threats to American safety.”
In another reminder of the callousness of the crime, someone taunted a girlfriend of one of the victims with a cold-blooded video of the bodies shortly after the murders. The FBI and police are now reviewing and tracing the source.
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)