MS-13 Involved in N.J. Slayings

By Jon Feere, September 18, 2008

Last year, Newark city officials downplayed the immigration and gang connections in the brutal execution-style slayings of three New Jersey students. Terrance Aeriel, 18, Dashon Harvey, 20, and Iofemi Hightower, 20, were lined up against a schoolyard wall and shot in the back of the head. A fourth victim, Natasha Aeriel, survived after being sexually assaulted and shot in the face.

On Monday, a New Jersey grand jury indicted the following suspects on murder, attempted murder, robbery, and weapons offenses: Alexander Alfaro, 17; Shahid Baskerville, 16; Jose Lachira Carranza, 29; Rodolfo Godinez, 25; Gerardo Gomez, 16; and Melvin Jovel, 19.

State prosecutors now say the following: “Certainly there was a strong gang component underlying each of these crimes.” The gang cited is the violent and rapidly-expanding MS-13, a gang made up largely of illegal aliens.

At least one of those indicted, Jose Lachira Carranza, has been confirmed to be an illegal alien. At the time of the killings, he was out on bail stemming from earlier charges of assault and child rape. His suspected involvement in the schoolyard slayings prompted the N.J. Attorney General to overhaul bail policies for illegal aliens. Other states should follow New Jersey’s lead and rethink illegal alien bail policies before brutal killings like these take place in their jurisdictions.

It is important to think about the way MS-13 operates; the eldest members call the shots and direct the younger members of the gang to conduct much of the criminal activity. Carranza was the eldest of the suspects and very likely the leader in this crime. While it’s just speculation, odds are that had Carranza been deported, the schoolyard slayings might never have taken place.

State involvement in the crackdown on illegal immigration is important for schoolyard safety, generally. MS-13 is known to commit brutal violence for the purposes of threatening youths to join their ranks; schoolyards are MS-13’s primary recruitment locales.

State officials nationwide have a choice to make. They can reduce gang crime by assisting federal immigration agencies with enforcement measures, or they can turn their backs on immigration law enforcement and make their state a haven for illegal-alien based gangs like MS-13.

The Center for Immigration studies will address the nexus between gangs and immigration in a forthcoming report authored by Jessica Vaughan and myself.