DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – On Friday, agents with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced the indictment of eight MS-13 gang members operating in the Dallas area.
The 18-count indictment against the gang members was unsealed Friday morning. All of those charged are in the United States illegally and one of them is still at large.
Officials say MS-13 is a national and transnational gang composed primarily of immigrants or descendants from El Salvador.
During a news conference held before the lunch hour, federal officials said the eight defendants are accused of violent attacks against 10 people – including rival gang members.
The group, ranging in age from 19 to 25-years-old, is accused of using machetes, a shotgun, and a sledgehammer in attempts to murder their victims.
Federal officials say the crimes took place at apartment complexes and parks in Dallas and Irving.
The U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas, Erin Nealy Cox, says there is a gang problem here in North Texas and agents aren’t just going after MS-13 members.
“We have all of the gangs on our radar that you listed. If you look at the cases that we’ve made, even in the last six months, you’ll see several of those gangs mentioned,” she said speaking to a reporter. “Bloods, Crips, Tango Blast… I mean, all of the ones you talked about. We’re not particularly focusing on any one gang over the over, we’re focused on violent conduct within our community.”
Nealy Cox says her Dallas office has received four more prosecutors to focus on these types of violent crimes. “MS-13 is one of the most violent and ruthless gangs on the streets today,” she said in a statement. “Working with out federal, state and local partners, we are determined to dismantle this organization wherever we find it in order to make our communities safer in Texas.”
The gang members indicted are facing sentences of up to life in prison if convicted.
Crystal Sifuentes said her two-year-old son enjoys going to Running Bear Park, but she had no idea that the normally fun and quiet place became the scene of a late-night violent attack in September 2017 against four people by MS-13 gang members.
“I’m a mother. To hear this… I don’t hear it often and when I hear it, it makes me scared,” said Sifuentes.
Although the news of the indictments is unnerving, she said it’s a reminder that she needs to be alert.
“If anything was to happen, I’m here with my kids… and what if that was us there. That makes me nervous, that makes me afraid to want to come out here by myself,” said Sifuentes.