Las Vegas Police: MS-13 gang responsible for 10 homicides in one year - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

Las Vegas Police: MS-13 gang responsible for 10 homicides in one year

Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo who runs the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department held a press conference and announced Monday the arrest of five members of the violent El Salvadoran street gang, MS-13, who were responsible for 10 murders in the last year in the Las Vegas valley.

The LVMPD worked jointly with the FBI, the US Attorney’s Office and law enforcement in Los Angeles and Fresno, California to solve the murders.

Over the course of three months, detectives linked several murders through forensic evidence, proximity, and similarities of the crimes and made connections between the victims and suspects.

Of the five who were arrested this month, one was a juvenile, three are from El Salvador and two from Honduras.

The suspects are being held on federal immigration charges and are awaiting charges from the US Attorney’s Office for kidnapping, assault with intent to commit murder, 1st degree murder and use of a firearm resulting in death.

Eighteen firearms were seized including an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, shotguns and semi-automatic pistols. All the weapons were stolen.

The ten victims were allegedly involved in rival gangs and narcotics.

The LVMPD said there are about 50 documented MS-13 members in the Las Vegas area.

Lombardo said, “I feel confident we have them under control.”

Doesn’t sound like they had anything under control the past year with bodies turning up all over the Las Vegas valley.

MS-13, or Mara Salvatrucha, are known for cutting off victim’s limbs, murders and drug trafficking. Many members of the gang are illegal immigrants who crossed into the United States from the Mexican border.

Lombardo claimed in the past that MS-13 didn’t have a large footprint in the Las Vegas Valley and that he still believes that.

“Until now we have not believed that they had committed any crimes, felonious crimes,” Lombardo said.

That comment opens the door for far too many questions.

One of the most violent gangs in the United States, what did Lombardo think MS-13 was doing in Las Vegas, holding charity events?

It also puts into question the effectiveness of current gang intelligence in the LVMPD.

Is there a manpower shortage in the criminal intelligence unit and the gang unit?

In 2007 the LVMPD said that there were at least 100 members of MS-13 in Southern Nevada and that the gang made up only a small percentage of the 8,000 known gang members in Metro’s jurisdiction at that time.

The total number of gang members has risen sharply since 2007.

Currently, it is estimated that there are about 600 gangs with 20,000 members if not more in Southern Nevada.

As for MS-13 members, if there were 100 in Southern Nevada as the LVMPD said in 2007, there are most likely far more than the 50 “documented” members they say are in the area right now.

Sheriff Lombardo disbands LVMPD gang unit

In 2015 Lombardo “decentralized” the LVMPD gang unit. He dispersed his gang detectives to area commands across the Las Vegas valley.

At a press conference at that time, he said, I have not gotten rid of the gang unit.” “What I have done is deployed those gang units out into the area commands, so they can deal with the gangs that are specific to those area units.”

The Las Vegas Police Protective Association, the union that represents the officers did not agree and said that the officers would be responding to calls that had nothing to do with gang activity.

“He basically dissolved the gang unit, those detectives were sent out to look at all kinds of crimes, not only gang crimes,” said one former LVMPD officer who spoke to the Baltimore Post-Examiner.

In February 2017 because of a rise in violent crime Lombardo removed the gang detectives from the area commands and merged them into a Gang/Vice Bureau.

Is Las Vegas a sanctuary city?

A 2011 Pew Hispanic Center report indicated that Nevada had the largest share of illegal workers in the nation and the largest share of illegal immigrants as a whole.

In 2014 Lombardo’s predecessor, Sheriff Doug Gillespie said that the LVMPD would no longer hold illegal immigrants unless the federal government had a warrant for those persons. That decision the LVMPD said at the time was based on a federal court case ruling in Oregon where a judge ruled that it was unconstitutional for local law enforcement agencies to detain illegal immigrants based solely on a request by ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement).

In 2015 the LVMPD said that policy was still supported by Sheriff Joe Lombardo.

Last year the US Department of Justice placed Las Vegas on the list of jurisdictions that the DOJ said refused to cooperate with ICE. Lombardo said that neither the city or the county had any law that mandated the LVMPD not to cooperate with ICE. Lombardo said the jail does notify ICE about dangerous immigrant criminals during booking and that ICE then has 48 hours to take custody of them.

Massacre victims excluded from LVMPD 2017 homicide totals

The LVMPD came under criticism earlier this year when it was discovered that they omitted the 58 people who were massacred on October 1, 2017, from the 2017 homicide statistics and stated that violent crime was down last year.

During the press conference Monday, Lombardo read from a prepared statement, “I want to say I have been receiving inquiries over the past couple of weeks about parts of this case, but we were not at the point in this investigation to discuss it during that time, we did not want to harm our investigation.”

Smart move.

He must have learned something from the criminal investigation of the worst mass shooting in modern American history, when he couldn’t stop talking about that case from one day to the next and was responsible for the worst public relations nightmare in the history of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, to date.

We are waiting for the release of all the evidence still being held by the LVMPD, the FBI and MGM Resorts International, the owners of the Mandalay Bay Hotel, relating to the October 1 massacre.

Sheriff Lombardo, at least release the lock interrogation reports for Mandalay Bay rooms 32-134 and 32-135 for October 1, 2017.

You have the authority to do that and hopefully, we will be able to put to rest once and for all that Paddock was the lone shooter in those rooms.

It’s the decent thing to do for the victims, the survivors and their families.






About the author

Doug Poppa

Doug Poppa is a US Army Military Police Veteran, former law enforcement officer, criminal investigator and private sector security and investigations management professional with 40 years of experience. In 1986 Mr. Poppa was awarded “Criminal Investigator of the Year” by the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office in Virginia for his undercover work in narcotics enforcement. He was also re-assigned to the Northern Virginia Regional Narcotics Enforcement Task Force for 18 months. In 1991 and again in 1992 Mr. Poppa’s testimony under oath in court led to the discovery that exculpatory evidence was withheld from the defense by the prosecutor and sheriff’s office officials during the 1988 trial of a man accused of attempted murder of his wife that led to his conviction. As a result of his testimony the man was ordered released from prison, given a new trial in 1992 and found not guilty. Mr. Poppa became the subject of local and national news media attention as a result of his testimony which led to the demise of his 12-year police career. After losing his job, at the request of the FBI, Mr. Poppa infiltrated in an undercover capacity a group of men who were plotting the kidnapping of a Dupont Chemical fortune heir and his wife in 1992. His stories have been featured on Inside Edition, A Current Affair, and CBS News’ Street Stories with Ed Bradley. Contact the author.

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