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NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—The family of a victim killed earlier this year, just a few steps from his Hamilton Street apartment will soon be served justice.
According to the June 26 press release from the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office (MCPO), the three men accused of taking the life of 29-year-old Enrique Perez Galindo, a father of four kids who was killed during a random robbery, have pled guilty to manslaughter.
Galindo was stabbed and robbed by the three men before passing away on his doorstep on February 25.
The robbers included Manuel Maldonado, a 21-year-old nicknamed “Manny,” Jose David Vasquez-Rivera, a 19-year-old who goes by “Sparky,” and Xavier Sanchez-Parral, a 19-year-old who goes by the nickname “Caballo.”
Vasquez-Rivera lived in the same apartment complex where the killing occurred, while Sanchez-Parral lived on Juliet Street, and Maldonado lived in Bound Brook, according to arrest records. The MCPO reported that all three were from New Brunswick.
Vasquez-Rivera's Facebook page showed images showing his affiliation with the MS-13 gang, which is short for Mara Salvatrucha.
According to the victim's family, Mr. Galindo was in no way connected to any gangs.
However, at least one of the three robbers involved in the killing was affiliated with MS-13, which is based in Central America and Mexico.
According to a 2008 report by the Congressional Research Service, U.S. elected officials began to grow concerned about the gang's presence here after its membership spread well outside of Los Angeles.
Sources said the fatal attack that took Galindo's life began as a robbery, but one member of the group escalated the violence, fatally stabbing him multiple times.
Maldonado will spend 25 years term in prison if Superior Court Judge Pedro Jimenez approves the plea agreement reached with the MCPO.
As for the two other defendants, they are facing a sentence of 20 years behind bars, according to the MCPO release.
All three defendants are scheduled to be sentenced on January 12, 2018 in Jimenez's courtroom at the Middlesex County Courthouse.
The investigation was done by Detective Drew Weiss of the New Brunswick Police Department (NBPD) and Detective David Abromaitis of the MCPO. The plea deal was reached with MCPO Assistant Prosecutor Scott Lamountain.
The killing was not caught on video, but police apparently secured confessions from the suspects.
Following the killing, surveillance cameras were mounted on the corner of the apartment complex, known as Hamilton Gardens.
The MS-13 gang has recently gained national attention after President Donald Trump targeted them in a July 28 speech in Long Island, using the gang's violence to support his anti-immigration positions.
"Together we're going to restore safety to our streets and peace to our communities and we're going to destroy the vile, criminal cartel MS-13 and many other gangs," said Trump while speaking to a crowd of police officers.
According to the NJ State Police's 2010 gang report, nearly 400 members of 13 different gangs were believed to be residents of New Brunswick.
The report stated that between 2 and 20 members of the Latin Kings gang were suspected to be living in New Brunswick, and between 21 and 99 members of the "G-Shine/Gangster Killer Bloods."
However the report, which is approaching seven years old, lists no presence of MS-13 in the Hub City, though it lists a presence in excess of 100 members in nearby Plainfield.
Unfortunately, no more recent information is available at the state level, and the local police department has repeatedly declined to publically address which gangs have the biggest presence in the city.
"I can't speak about any investigation," said NBPD Captain JT Miller, declining to give specifics about what was then the only murder of 2017.
He acknowledged that "some" members of MS-13 had been in the city, but downplayed their presence.
"I'm sure some have come through here from time and again," said Miller.
Miller was subsequently asked if he could disclose who are the biggest gangs in New Brunswick.
"It's information we're not prepared to release at this time," said Miller.
In 2016, Miller also dodged the question of who the biggest gangs are in the city, saying that it was "arbitrary in nature and [does] not reference a specific incident."
According to the police department's website, they offer city school students "Gang Resistance Education and Training," known by the acronym GREAT.
"The G.R.E.A.T. curriculum is a thirteen week classroom program aimed at preventing youth crime, violence, and gang involvement while developing positive relationships among law enforcement officers, families, and our youth," reads the NBPD website.
"Lessons include facts and fictions about gangs and violence, refusal skills, roll-playing, anger management tips, and conflict resolution techniques. It also focuses on providing life skills to students aimed at helping them avoid using delinquent behavior and violence to solve problems."
However, it's unclear what the police are doing to raise awareness of gangs among those outside of the city's public schools.