What to Know
- Justin Llivicura, 16, was the youngest of the four young men found brutally killed in a Long Island park last week
- About 200 mourners, many of them young, attended the Mass on Wednesday in East Patchogue
- The killings last week are among 11 that have struck the working-class immigrant communities of Brentwood and Central Islip, since September
Funeral services were held Wednesday for the youngest of the four friends found brutally slain in a Long Island park in what police suspect could have been the work of the MS-13 street gang.
Mostly Ecuadorian friends and relatives of 16-year-old Justin Llivicura remembered him in a ceremony full of Catholic songs in Spanish and with a photo of the teen close to the altar inside St. Joseph the Worker Church in East Patchogue, which he grew up attending with his family. In a church filled with the aroma of incense and the occasional noise of crying babies, Rev. Martin Curtin prayed for the end of violence against young people in Long Island.
Curtin told News 4 that Justin was a lively and dynamic teen. He worked part-time at a restaurant, DJ'd some house parties and had some interest in cars. He was also very close with his family.
"He was very affectionate with his family, the type of kid that didn't mind having his arm around his mom walking through the mall," Curtin told News 4.
No one could expect such a violent end to his life, Curtin said.
"It's not an expression of his life," the pastor said. "In one way or another, he was grabbed up when this happened to him. It's not a reflection of his world and his life."
Curtin said the community was feeling "intense distress" and sorrow that "something so violent could happen to someone so young."
The teen's mother, Blanca Llivicura, called for her community to support police as she left her son's funeral.
"Police always need support because no parent should go through what happened to me, again," she told reporters in Spanish. "The way in which my son died is very ugly."
"I hope that if he is caught, justice is done," she said.
About 200 mourners, many of them young, attended the Mass. Police kept a low-key presence around the church.
Justin is among four young men found dead in Central Islip Recreation Village Park on April 12. The other thee were 18-year-old Jorge Tigre, a classmate of Justin; 18-year-old Jefferson Villalobos, 18; and his cousin, 20-year-old Michael Banegas.
Another friend who was with the group at the park managed to escape, according to a cousin of Villalobos. He told Villalobos' family he was hanging out with friends, then saw men come out from the trees with machetes.
The young men were violently killed with sharp objects, police said. A cousin of Villabolos and Banegas told News 4 last week some of their faces were unrecognizable.
Suffolk Police Commissioner Timothy Sini said last Friday the investigation is "very active" and that police planned to pursue the same strategies that led to the arrests of the 160 MS-13 gang members since last fall. The FBI jas joined the investigation.
"Obviously we know the community is very on edge," he said. "We will be enhancing patrols in the area significantly and for an indefinite period of time."
The discovery of the bodies comes about a month after the arrest of eight MS-13 gang members in connection with the September killings of two teenage girls in nearby Brentwood. Gang violence has been a problem in Central Islip, Brentwood and other Long Island communities for more than a decade; 11 victims have been brutally killed on Long Island since last September.
Police have offered a $25,000 reward to solve the case, but so far no suspects have been identified.
President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions both mentioned MS-13 on Tuesday, and Sessions specifically referenced the Long Island killings before meeting with top federal law enforcement officials on ways to dismantle ultraviolent transnational gangs.
"We cannot allow this to continue. We will secure our border, expand immigration enforcement, and choke-off supply lines. If you are a gang member: We will find you," Sessions said.
Trump later tweeted that "Sessions is doing a fantastic job: announced today new steps to dismantle violent gangs like MS-13. I promised to get tough and we are!"
MS-13, also called Mara Salvatrucha, is believed to have been founded as a neighborhood street gang in Los Angeles in the mid-1980s by immigrants fleeing a civil war in El Salvador. It grew after some members were deported to El Salvador, helping turn that country into one of the most violent places in the world.
It's now a major international criminal enterprise with tens of thousands of members in several Central American countries and many U.S. states.