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From left, Ramon Arevalo Lopez, Oscar Canales Molina, and Nobeli Montes Zuniga. Photos from SCDA.

Three men arrested for allegedly stabbing a Huntington High School student last week are known MS-13 gang members, who entered the country illegally and are Huntington High School students, according to Suffolk County District Attorney Tim Sini (D).

Ramon Arevalo Lopez, 19; Oscar Canales Molina, 17; and Nobeli Montes Zuniga, 20, were arrested by Suffolk County police Jan. 9 shortly after a 16-year-old male was stabbed during a large fight behind Burger King, located on New York Avenue in Huntington Station. Each of the defendants is charged with one count of second-degree assault, a class D felony.

“While it is unclear what the groups were fighting about, one thing is clear: everyone arrested are confirmed members of MS-13.”

— Geraldine Hart

“While it is unclear what the groups were fighting about, one thing is clear: everyone arrested are confirmed members of MS-13,” Geraldine Hart, Suffolk County police commissioner said. “This incident is a reminder of the gang’s violent ways.”

Suffolk county police officers responded to a 911 call reporting a large fight involving approximately 15 high school-aged students in the rear parking lot of Burger King at approximately 2:30 p.m.

Sini said a group of Huntington High School students went to the fast-food restaurant after school let out and saw six Hispanic males staring at them in a ‘menacing way.’ The teens reportedly felt uncomfortable and left the store but were followed by the group of men that included the defendants. The group allegedly charged and attacked the students while wielding bats and knives, according to Sini, stabbing one teen through the back and injuring a second individual.

The 16-year-old male, whose identity was not released by police, was transported to Good Samaritan Hospital where he was treated for non-life-threatening injuries.

Witnesses reported allegedly seeing the three defendants fleeing the scene in a black 2007 Toyota Scion with a large rear spoiler. Officers Guido, Indelicato and Rodriguez located a matching vehicle nearby shortly afterwards, according to Hart, that contained Lopez, Canales Molina and Zuniga.

The three defendants had blood on their clothing and hands, as well as the vehicle, according to police. Sini said Arevalo Lopez made an admission to the arresting officers that he stabbed the teen, while Canales Molina and Montes Zuniga both allegedly admitted to police they were involved in the fight. Canales Molina had two knives on him at the time of his arrest, including a small one covered in blood found concealed in his boot, according the district attorney. Each of the three defendants have been previously confirmed as MS-13 members by Suffolk County Police Department, according to Sini, and had records in the county’s gang database.

“Just because [Lopez]’s been ‘confirmed’ as a member in an ill-conceived Suffolk County Police Department database isn’t proof of anything. He is innocent of the charges that have been leveled against him.”

—Jason Bassett

“What we know about MS-13 is that they use violence to — in their minds — ensure that they are given respect,” he said. “Certainly, this type of incident fits within the modus operandi of MS-13, which is essentially random and seemingly senseless acts of violence.

Lopez’s attorney, Jason Bassett of Hauppauge, strongly refuted all charges and district attorney’s allegations that his client is or has been involved in gang activity.

“[Lopez] is not an MS-13 gang member,” Bassett said. “Just because he’s been ‘confirmed’ as a member in an ill-conceived Suffolk County Police Department database isn’t proof of anything. He is innocent of the charges that have been leveled against him.”

Montes Zuniga’s defense attorney, Norley Castañeda, declined to give any statement regarding the incident or his possible gang affiliation. Canales Molina’s attorney could not be reached for comment.

All three defendants were arraigned Jan. 10 in Central Islip court before Suffolk County Judge Gaetan Lozito who set bai for each at $35,000 cash or $75,000 bond. No one had posted bail as of Jan. 15.

The incident occurred two days after hundreds of concerned citizens attended Huntington school district’s board of education meeting to address concerns about a New York Times Magazine piece that chronicled the story of an immigrant teen, Alex, who was accused of being associated with MS-13 in some part based on his interactions with the school resource officer and, as a result, deported in July 2018.

Sini said all three defendants are currently enrolled as students at Huntington High School after having allegedly entered the country illegally. The district attorney said his records show Canales Molina was detained by U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement in July 2017 and released from custody by a federal judge in November 2017. Similarly, Lopez was detained by ICE in October 2017, and was released from custody by a federal judge in June 2018.

“Even though we’ve had a lot of success the last couple of years in combating MS-13, it’s important that we remain vigilant.”

— Tim Sini

Huntington Superintendent James Polansky requested additional police presence at the high school the day following the stabbing, according to the police commissioner, and additional officers and resources will be provided as necessary.

Despite this incident and recent media attention, Sini said he remains optimistic about the county’s efforts to crackdown on MS-13 is paying off.

“That’s why you see historic crime reduction in Suffolk County, that’s why you see MS-13 incidents are down significantly when compared to 2015-16,” the district attorney said. “Even though we’ve had a lot of success the last couple of years in combating MS-13, it’s important that we remain vigilant.”

The police investigation into the incident is ongoing and there is the possibility of additional charges being added, according to Sini. The case is being prosecuted by the Enhanced Prosecution Bureau’s Gang Unit.

File photo

Suffolk County police arrested a Coram teen May 30 for allegedly stabbing his mother to death.

During an altercation Wednesday morning, Jacob Beechem stabbed his mother, Donette Beechem, inside their residence at approximately 7:15 a.m. Jacob Beechem was injured as he fell out of a window attempting to flee the home.

Donette Beechem, 47, was pronounced dead at the scene by a member of the office of the Suffolk County medical examiner. Jacob Beechem, 18, was admitted to Stony Brook University Hospital for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries.

Jacob Beechem was charged with second-degree murder and will be arraigned at a later date.

Attorney information for Beechem was not immediately available.

File photo by Victoria Espinoza

Suffolk County police 4th Precinct crime section officers are investigating an incident during which a man allegedly asked a juvenile to expose himself.

A 16-year-old boy was jogging in Lake Grove April 13 at around 10 a.m. when a man driving a white refrigerated box truck started following the boy and allegedly asked him to expose himself. The teen refused and the driver left.

The man was described as white, had read hair and in his mid-30s. He was missing teeth. The truck had a flower logo on the cab doors.

Anyone with information is asked to call 4th Precinct crime section at 631-854-8426 or call Crime Stoppers anonymously at 1-800-220-TIPS (8477). All calls will be kept confidential.

Celso Garcia Mendez. Photo from SCPD

Suffolk County police arrested a Huntington Station man for allegedly stalking a teen while she was walking to her bus stop for more than a month.

Celso Garcia Mendez approached a 13-year-old female and allegedly handed her a note as she was walking to her bus stop on Sixth Avenue in Huntington Station on Feb. 8 at approximately 7:30 a.m. Garcia Mendez, 25, left in a silver Chrysler sedan. Officers obtained a description of the man, surveyed the area and identified the suspect.

South Huntington School officials said they were informed of the incident Feb. 8. They issued a stranger danger alert on the school district’s website and encouraged the community to report any further suspicious activity to the district and the police.

An investigation by 2nd Precinct Crime Section officers determined Garcia Mendez had approached and attempted to communicate with the teen, who previously asked him to stop, near her bus stop for approximately one month.

Garcia Mendez was charged with fourth-degree stalking and endangering the welfare of a child. He was scheduled for arraignment at First District Court in Central Islip on Feb. 9.

Following the arrest, the school district posted an update announcing Garcia Mendez’s arrest on their website.

“We are pleased to inform you as a result of the cooperation between South Huntington schools, 2nd Precinct, and the family, the individual described in yesterday’s stranger danger message was arrested this morning,” read the district’s post. This is an important reminder that the strength and safety of our community rests on the communication between all constituents.”

Superintendent David Bennardo and Stimson Middle School Principal Edwin Smith also thanked local law enforcement for their quick response. They asked South Huntington parents to make sure to discuss personal safety and the importance of reporting suspicious activity with their children.

This post was updated Feb. 9 at 10:45 a.m. with additional information. 

 

Wendy Velasquez. Photo from SCPD

Suffolk County police 2nd squad detectives are seeking the public’s help to locate a Huntington Station teen who was reported missing last week.

Wendy Velasquez, 16, who was last seen at her residence in Huntington Station Oct. 10, was reported missing Oct. 12. She is Hispanic, 5 feet, 4 inches tall, 120 pounds with brown hair and brown eyes.

Detectives do not suspect foul play.

The investigation is ongoing. Detectives are asking anyone with information to call 911 or contact the 2nd squad at 631-854-8252.

Nico's Way serves as reminder of child's character

Vincent Sr. and Kim Signore embrace one another while their son Vincent Jr. speaks during the street-renaming ceremony. Photo by Kevin Redding

By Kevin Redding

After her son was fatally struck by an SUV earlier this year, Kim Signore of Miller Place feared 14-year-old Nico would be forgotten. But a new street sign on the block where the budding lacrosse star grew up will help preserve his memory forever.

The Signores huddled together alongside family, friends and elected officials Oct. 6 during an unveiling of the sign labeled Nico’s Way. The dedication was done on the corner of Miller Place Road and Islander Court in Miller Place for the boy who died riding his bike on a busy intersection on Route 25A in February. The street sign, which stands only a few houses down from the Signore residence, was installed by the Town of Brookhaven at the request of members of the family.

“This block is where it all began for Nico,” the boy’s older brother, Vincent Jr., said before the unveiling. “Nico left us too soon, but in the little time he was here on this Earth he taught us how to live life to the fullest. He will never be forgotten. We hope that this street serves as a compass when you are lost and can’t find your way.”

Nico Signore’s Miller Place lacrosse teammates attend the ceremony to pay their respects and remember their fallen friend. Photo by Kevin Redding

Kathleen Perry, a longtime friend of the Signore family, agrees the dedication is a wonderful way to help Nico live on.

“Nico just lit up this block,” Perry said, remembering the 14-year-old as the most kindhearted boy she’d met. “I think this is a great thing for the town to do.”

Nico’s aunt, Mary Alipo, said although the family will never be the same after the tragedy, townwide support is helping with the healing process.

“He was such an amazing individual and to see this many people who cared about him coming forward and serving as a support group is just incredible,” Alipo said.

Brookhaven Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) commended the Miller Place community for rallying around the Signores in their time of need.

“Thank you for opening your hearts and your arms to the Signores — I know you will forever keep Nico’s memory in your embrace,” Bonner said to the large crowd, including Miller Place school district faculty, members of Nico’s lacrosse team and neighbors, as well as Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) and Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro (R). “You have all been there to prop them up, hug them when they needed it and dry their tears. This is a wonderful community.”

Kim and Vincent Sr. Signore unveil the new Nico’s Way sign in memory of their son. Photo by Kevin Redding

An emotional Kim Signore held back tears as she thanked everyone in attendance.

“You guys are amazing,” she said.

Upon losing Nico, the mother’s greatest fear was that, over time, her son’s legacy would disappear.

“This is a way to always remember him because he was such a good kid — a beautiful boy inside and out,” she said. She laughed recalling the impromptu dance sessions to Frank Sinatra songs that Nico often initiated. “He would come downstairs in his lacrosse shorts, and no shirt and say, ‘Let’s dance, ma.’ He was a good boy. He loved this community. He loved everybody.”

The idea for a street sign initially came from Kim and Vincent, Nico’s father, and was carried through by Nico’s aunt and uncle, Kelly and Charles Butruch, who were in contact with Romaine and Bonner for most of the year. As Brookhaven policy requires a six-month window between a person’s death and public memorialization, a resolution for Nico’s Way was approved at the end of August.

Vincent Signore hopes that the sign will serve as not only a memorialization of his son but as a reminder to drivers to be more careful.

“I would like for people to be more aware of their surroundings when they’re driving and not be distracted,” he said.

Since Nico’s death at the intersection of Miller Place Road and Route 25A, there have been significant changes to the location to ensure better safety for pedestrians and drivers alike.

Sophia, Vincent Jr., Vincent Sr. and Kim Signore are overwhelmed with emotion recalling memories of their brother and son Nico Signore during a street-renaming ceremony in Miller Place. Photo by Kevin Redding

Around what would have been Nico’s 15th birthday in April, the road saw the implementation of a red left-turn signal to stop cars from entering the crosswalk when pedestrians and bicyclists are given the go-ahead to get to the other side. No turn on red signs were also added.

“It’s bittersweet,” Kelly Butruch said. “A year ago, did I think we would be here today? No, and I wish we didn’t have to be, but it’s the best way to memorialize him.”

Michael Lombardi, a Miller Place 10th grader
and lacrosse player, remembers his friend as an amazing person on and off the field.

A scholarship fund for Miller Place seniors who show exemplary spirit, courage and love of community was given out to two students this past May. The family intends to continue the fund throughout the future.

As the Signores and community members gathered under the sign, they shared stories of the highly regarded student-athlete.

“Nico was astounding,” Lombardi said. “He had a great personality — he was funny. He was always nice to everybody and a great player. Whenever we needed a goalie, he stepped up. He’s greatly missed.”

Another of Nico’s former teammates, Kevin Thompson, said his friend will never be forgotten.

“Whenever you pass the sign here and look at it, we’ll think of him,” he said.

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