What to Know
- Jorge Tigre and Michael Banegas were one of four young men found brutally killed in a Long Island park last week
- Authorities suspect the gang MS-13 is to blame for their deaths
- 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 Thursday for two 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.
Friends and relatives of 18-year-old Jorge Tigre and 20-year-old Michael Banegas gathered at two funerals on Long Island to remember the two young men.
Funeral services for Tigre were held at St. Joseph the Worker Church in East Patchogue, while services for Banegas were held at Saint Anne's Roman Catholic Church in Brentwood.
The fourth victim, 18-year-old Jefferson Villalobos, was visiting Long Island from Florida. Villalobos is the cousin of Banegas.
The four young men were found dead in Central Islip Recreation Village Park on April 12. 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.