By JOHN WAYNE FERGUSON, The Daily News
The June strangulation of a Honduran teenager in Galveston was committed by three MS-13 gang members, police alleged Thursday.
The announcement added details about the June 7 death of Christian Hernandez Funes Escobar.
Escobar’s death was not announced publicly until last month, when Luis Ernesto Carbajal Peraza, 26, was indicted for murder and charged with killing Escobar.
Cristian Rene Chavez-Chavez, 23, was indicted for tampering with a human corpse.
This week, a Galveston County grand jury handed up more charges against both men. Chavez-Chavez was indicted on a murder charge, and Carbajal Peraza was indicted Tuesday for tampering with a human corpse. Both men were still in custody at the Galveston County jail Thursday.
A third man was also indicted this week. Jairo Licona-Cardenas, 21, of Houston was charged with murder. He was being held Thursday at Harris County Jail.
Escobar was strangled on the east end of Seawall Boulevard near Boddeker Road, according to police. After he was killed, his body was driven back up to Houston and buried in a “clandestine grave” in a wooded area near West Fuqua Street, police said
Escobar’s body was found Aug. 1. Police did not say how they connected his death to the three men.
Escobar lived in Galveston. He was killed a day before his 18th birthday. Escobar was from Honduras. Police said they didn’t know what his immigration status was.
Police do not suspect Escobar was a gang member, Galveston police detective Derek Gaspard said.
The police department is looking for other people investigators suspect to be connected to Escobar’s death, Gaspard said.
“The additional people that we’re looking for are probably on the run,” he said. “We don’t believe there’s any danger right now.”
Police have developed a theory about the motive behind the strangulation, but didn’t disclose it.
“It’s not like a drive-by shooting or random killing,” said Galveston police Chief Vernon Hale. “They target their victims and know who they want to kill and why they kill them. There’s typically a reason behind it, and we believe that’s the case here.”
Details about the Galveston killing were released after Houston authorities announced the arrest of 11 MS-13 gang members in connection with five homicides since June.
Houston-area police departments have arrested more than 20 other MS-13 gang members since June, officials said in a news conference Wednesday.
The Harris County District Attorney’s Office is seeking charges against as many as 50 people accused of gang membership in connection to a homicide in Missouri City.
MS-13 is a particularly violent gang operating in cities across the country, law enforcement officers said.
President Donald Trump has used crimes associated with the gang in arguments for increasing deportations and enforcing stricter immigration policies.
Experts estimate there are about 10,000 MS-13 gang members in the United States. At a news conference Wednesday, Houston police Chief Art Acevedo estimated there were about 400 MS-13 gang members in Houston, and 800 in the Texas Gulf Coast region.
MS-13’s first gangs were founded in immigrant neighborhoods in Los Angeles in the 1980s. The group later spread across the United State and into Central America.
The gang is loosely organized, with no single leader, and is a “small, part-time role player in international criminal schemes,” according to a report the Center for Latin American & Latino Studies at American University released this year.
Galveston officials credited the arrest in the local killing to the involvement of multiple law enforcement agencies and hundreds of hours of investigation.
While police officials said the killing was evidence of gang activity on the island, they downplayed the threat the gang posed to the general public.
“There is a presence, I’m not going to say there’s not,” Gaspard said. “We believe it’s very incremental though.”
The Galveston Police Department does not have a gang unit, but works closely with other area agencies to monitor gang activity, Hale said.
“I think once we release more information, you’ll understand the tenacity and dogged effort these detectives put in to solve these crimes,” Hale said.
Editors Note: Abolish ICE? I don't think so. Great job GPD!