An MS-13 member who goes by the gang name “Animal” received a 40-year prison sentence this week for a conspiracy that included the murder of a 15-year-old boy, the U.S. attorney’s office in Massachusetts said Tuesday.
The nickname, which the prosecutors highlighted in the headline of a press release, is particularly telling, coming just a week after President Trump called members of the violent, immigrant-fueled MS-13 gang “animals.”
Joel Martinez, 23, admitted he murdered the 15-year-old as part of his initiation as a “homeboy” in Mara Salvatrucha, the gang’s full name.
“I stabbed the culero three times,” Mr. Martinez said, according to prosecutors. “He stared at me and he asked me if I was going to, if I was going to stab him. I told him, ‘Yes, the Mara rules you.’”
Culero is a derogatory MS-13 members use for a rival gang. Killing a rival gang member was a requirement for achieving full status in MS-13 in Massachusetts, the FBI says.
The White House says incidents like Martinez‘ murder-initiation back up Mr. Trump’s comment during a roundtable on sanctuary cities last week in which he said “these aren’t people, these are animals.”
The president has used such language about MS-13 many times in the past, but this latest use drew an outsized reaction from immigrant-rights groups, congressional Democrats and news outlets — many of which misconstrued the president’s remarks to refer to all illegal immigrants.
But authorities say the gang’s brutality is well-known.
In an FBI affidavit accompanying the conspiracy case against Martinez in Massachusetts, an agent recounted a litany of shootings, stabbings and beatings by gang members either attempting to intimidate others, or to enforce their rules internally.
MS-13 members are also well aware they are targets for police enforcement. In the affidavit the FBI says one gang leader instructed his members to cover up their tattoos, refrain from wearing the gang’s colors or the Nike Cortez sneakers that had become a telltale mark of a full member. They were also told to forgo carrying a knife or gun and instead carry a bicycle chain with a lock attached as a weapon because it was less likely to get them pegged as a gang member if they were stopped by police on the street.