4 N.Y. High School Students Killed in Suspected Gang Violence

Police investigations into each death are ongoing.

A community on Long Island has mourned the death of four students over the last month in what police are calling an uptick in gang violence.

The victims, all former students at Brentwood High School, are suspected by officials to have been killed by MS-13 gang members, CBS News reports.

The bodies of Nisa Mickens, 15, Kayla Cuevas, 16, Oscar Acosta, 19, and Miguel Garcia-Moran, 15, were all discovered by police in September, casting a shadow of sadness and fear over the community to start the school year.

Investigations are ongoing in all of the deaths, and Suffolk County Police Commissioner Tim Sini says he is confident arrests will be made.

“These murders show a level of brutality that is close to unmatched,” Sini says.

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On Sept. 13, Micken’s body was found beaten next to a street. The next day Cuevas was found dead in the backyard of a nearby home. The two girls were described as lifelong friends who bonded over their love of basketball. Both bodies were discovered near a local elementary school.

Days after those discoveries, the remains of Acosta and Garcia-Moran were found in a remote industrial area of Brentwood. Those deaths have been ruled homicides by police.

Police have not announced any official causes of death yet.

Brentwood High School officials sent a letter to parents urging them to make sure their children don’t leave the house in gang-related clothing. Officials say a freshman student was stopped on his way to a bus stop by a car and told to hand over a light blue T-shirt he was holding. The people in the car burned the shirt and warned the student not to wear blue again.

Brentwood High Principal Richard Loeschner says school officials have identified students suspected of being in gangs, but are limited in their options to respond.

“We can’t exclude a kid because we suspect they are in a gang,” Loeschner says. “That’s state and federal law that they are entitled to an education.”

Multiple students expressed fear that the killings would continue and say they are afraid to leave their houses. Since 2009, police have claimed MS-13 is responsible for at least 14 murders. Brentwood has two high schools with a combined 4,400 student enrollment.

The Suffolk County Police Department, which is handling the cases, is seen as fractured and ineffective. Former Suffolk Police Chief James Burke is going to jail for punching a man suspected of stealing a duffel bag containing pornography, sex toys and cigars from his car. District Attorney Thomas J. Spota is under investigation for corruption and has been accused of using the district attorney’s office to run a “criminal enterprise” by County Executive Steve Ballone, according to the New York Times.

Commissioner Sini has promised to turn the department around and end the gang violence. Sini, who took over for Burke earlier this year, says he has increased patrols and door-ro-door canvassing, rejoined the Long Island Gang Task Force of the FBI and met with dozens of agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

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