DATE: Monday, August 31, 2009 at about 8:30 p.m.
LOCATION: Inside Sunset Park near 41 Street and 7 Avenue.
That double homicide Monday evening in Sunset Park may be related to a turf war between two gangs–the relatively unknown Brooklyn South Boys and the notorious MS-13, the Salvadoran gang which has chapters spread across the country.
Law enforcement sources say the victims of the Monday evening attack, Rafael Calixto, 22, and Jose Nieves Arce, 28, were both members of MS-13.
The alleged shooter, Ismael Vargas, just 16 years old, was a member of the Brooklyn South Boys. He is charged with murder and illegal weapons possession. He was arrested on Tuesday afternoon. Vargas, who is being held in a city jail, had no apparent prior arrests.
A criminal complaint offers little detail about the shootings. Earlier this week, police said one victim was shot in the face, and the other, in the neck and torso. Both men were declared dead at the scene.
Neighborhood sources say gang members have been holding what appeared to be night-time recruitment meetings off and on over the past 18 months in the park near where the killings took place.
“It was a pretty daring thing to do at 8:30 on a summer evening,” one area resident says.
The murders have shaken up a community which relies on the park for recreation and relaxation, a community activist says.
“This is very troubling,” the community activist says. “It’s going to keep people from going to the park, and that is what this element wants. This is how they take control of the place. They create terror. We because of fear actually hand over the real estate.”
The activist says the city needs to create programs that cater to youth in the community to prevent them from falling in with gangs. “This is a group of youth who come here with no support network,” the activist says.
Last March, federal prosecutors charged a reputed leader of MS-13 in New York, Oscar “Taz” Fuentes, with the unrelated murder of a Flushing man shot to death outside a bodega in 2007. Prosecutors said the victim, Maurice Parker, was shot for nothing more than being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
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