U.S. Attorney map illustrates violent crime by MS-13 clique.

A federal grand jury has indicted 17 alleged MS-13 members suspected of wide-ranging violent and criminal acts perpetrated largely in the Mission District, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California announced today. 

A federal indictment unsealed Friday accuses many of the 17 men, all alleged members of the MS-13 “20th Street clique,” of attempted murder, drug dealing, witness intimidation and robberies. All of these crimes, the indictment alleges, were performed to further the gang’s proliferation and agenda. 

In January 2019, for example, three of the men allegedly assaulted a family — including two children, ages 15 and 12 — across the street from Mission Playground, chasing them, pointing a gun at them, and eventually punching and kicking them because they wanted to know if they were in a rival gang. 

“Violence is at the core of the organization,” U.S. Attorney David Anderson told reporters at his office at 450 Golden Gate Ave. at a morning press conference. 

Almost all of the alleged crime and gang activity took place in and around the 20th Steet clique’s alleged territory in the Mission, which the indictment defines as Mission Street between 15th to the north and 21st Street to the south, Church Street to the west and South Van Ness to the east. 

“Mission Playground lies at the center of this territory,” the indictment claims, noting that the gang also controls Dolores Park and Bryant Square Park. 

Over 14 counts, the indictment accuses the 17 men of racketeering conspiracy, attempted murder in aid of racketeering, assault with a dangerous weapon in aid of racketeering, among others. 

Mission pool and playground is at the “center” of MS-13 territory. Photo by Lola M. Chavez.

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Mostly, the indictment details the gang’s violent acts. 

On September 16, 2016, Alexis Cruz Zepeda (“Zorro”) and Kevin Reyes Melendez (“Neutron”) allegedly fired eight shots at a person they suspected of being in a rival gang near Hampshire and 21st streets. The victim suffered five gunshots, and the incident led to a high-speed chase, with the alleged assailants evading law enforcement that night. 

Other stories are similar. Two alleged members, Oscar Espinal (“Chuy”) and Edwin Alvarado Amaya (“Muerte”), allegedly stabbed a person they suspected of being a rival 15 times at the bus stop at 24th street and Potrero Avenue in November 2017. Three members — Belloso Aleman (“Smiley”), Kenneth Campos (“Nesio”) and “Neutron” Melendez — allegedly punched, kicked, and stabbed a person at Dolores Park in May 2018 for growing up in rival gang territory. 

The indictment details eight other similar incidents. All but one happened in the Mission District. 

“All 17 of the men are in federal custody as of” Thursday, Anderson said, emphasizing that the indictments consist of “allegations, not proof.” Six of them were arrested Thursday, while the rest were already in custody, he said. 

“All of the defendants are presumed to be innocent,” he said. “They enjoy that presumption of innocence, as do we all, unless or until the charges are proved beyond a reasonable doubt.”  

Others charged in the indictment include: Fernando Romero Bonilla (“Black”), Evert Galdamez Cisernos (“Talentoso”), Lois Velis Diaz (“Popa”), Ronaldy Domiguez (“Smokey”), Wilfredo Iraheta Landaverde (“Wally”), Missael Mendoza, Chrisian Quianilla, Elmer Rodriquez (“Gordo”), Marvin Osegueda Saravia (“Chiquis”), Kevin Ramirez Valencia (“Delincuente”), and Kevin Guatamala Zepeda (“Mision”).  

SFPD Chief Bill Scott, right, addresses reporters with U.S. Attorney Dave Anderson, and Homeland Security Agent in Charge Tatum King on March 13, 2020. Photo by Julian Mark.

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Separate from the grand jury indictments, San Francisco Police Department Chief Bill Scott told reporters that the 20th Street clique was responsible for two 2017 Mission District homicides: 44-year-old Jorge Martinez and 23-year-old Abel Esquivel

Martinez was shot on March 17, 2017, outside of Beauty Bar on 19th and Mission streets. 

Scott said that a man Jose Mejia-Carillo, who is not named in the indictment, shot Martinez once and then shot him a second time as he lay on the ground. Alexis Cruz-Zepeda, one of the 17 men named on Friday, kept lookout. 

Mejia-Carillo, he said, has been convicted of homicide conviction for the killing, and Cruz-Zepeda has been convicted of “conspiracy involving a homicide.” 

Abel Esquivel, a Mission native and budding youth counselor, was shot on 26th and South Van Ness on Aug. 15, 2017, with a gun stolen from a police officer’s car. Erick Garcia-Pineda and Jesus Perez-Araujo, who were not named in the indictment, were arrested and are awaiting trial in connection with the killing. 

Speaking about Friday’s indictments and the overall violence of the MS-13 presence in the neighborhood, Scott said that the “arrests provide a sense of comfort and relief to the residents of the Mission District and the residents of the City and County of San Francisco.”

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19 Comments

  1. Sounds to me like they’ have been racially profiled. From their names, it seems like they’re all Latinx, — or at least a much larger percentage than the actual neighborhood demographics. Is there any information on how many of them are undocumented?

    Why do the feds have them in custody and not the SFPD (what makes these federal charges)? Is there a reason we hardly ever see SFPD arrest any gang members for their crimes?

    Since they are in federal custody, does that mean that they will be handed over to ICE if they are undocumented instead of released back into the community with no bail like they would if in SFPD custody?

    These would be interesting questions for ML to cover.

    1. I wonder what percentage of the non-Latinx Mission population is a member of a street gang? If the gang-affiliation percentages were similar across racially groups, then yes, you’d expect the arrests to be equally distributed. Otherwise, I’m not sure I follow your logic.

      SFPD probably knows the prosecutors office won’t pursue the case, so is instead letting the Feds take over. Federal laws apply to San Francisco, just like everywhere else in the United States.

    2. Racially profiled? The affiliation is MS-13! With all due respect, Marcos, how long have you been in the Mission, if at all? Before asking ML to “cover your questions”, do your own homework!

  2. Sounds to me like the city is just clearing out the Mission for all the techies .
    “suspected crimes” ? I thought people were suspects, not crimes!
    Suspicious.

  3. Notice it was the federal government who took down this violent gang … San Francisco officials will probably protest this harassment of a “underserved” and “marginalized” Latino social “clique”.

    1. And the reality is that it was both, taking out a violent gang members, and sustained harassment of the Latino community.

      The Latino community doesn’t like to have violent gang members in the same parks and streets. Like the indictment shows, much of the alleged crimes were committed against other Latinos. Probably because of the fear of reprisals works more if the victims are afraid of serious collateral consequences of talking with the police.

      But its also the case that there has been a sustained harassment of mostly young Latinos at this same park. There are too many police how are either badly trained, lazy in thinking, or accustomed to living in a society that accepts as acceptable racism and harassment against Latinos. These bad apple police have be operating with the assumption, if he’s young and Latino, assume he is a gang member. If he’s young and Latino, and has smoked a switcher or drank some chellas, expect that the police will treat him in a way that will violate his rights, is harassment, is arbitrary, and uses excessive force.

      So yes, good if violent people are removed, but that doesn’t erase the many race based shortcut that have violated right, and led to fear in the streets.

      1. I don’t understand what you mean in “….the fear of reprisals works more if the victims are afraid of serious collateral consequences of talking with the police.”

        Are you saying that the police exact “serious..consequences” on people who report crimes to them?

        If not, then you must mean there’s fear of the gang. That’s the usual explanation of how gangs(and other violent criminals) evade prosecution. That always raises the question of why don’t community leader act as intermediaries between witnesses and police to protect witnesses from retaliation by keeping them anonymous? It would seem obvious that the community as a whole would be better off if it pursues ways to cooperate with police against violent gangs, even if it means tolerating some unwarranted police suspicion. Kind of like how sobriety checkpoints are unwarranted suspicion but they’re accepted because impaired drivers are a bigger fear.

        Is witnesses being undocumented a factor in the fear? If that’s the case, then from a societal point of view, criminal gang activity is likely to be a consequence of communities having significant numbers of undocumented residents.

        Finally, you write “The Latino community doesn’t like to have violent gang members in the same parks and streets.” Do you know what the purpose of these gang’s criminal activity is? It’s not mentioned here. Are they extorting people for money or coercing people to provide them goods and services? Or is it macho culture bragging rights, gaining community admiration as being important and powerful?

        1. Sorry I know I’m not always the clearest writer.

          To use your words for what I meant to say,

          W]itnesses (and victims) being undocumented [is] a factor in the fear. [f]rom a societal point of view, criminal gang activity is likely to be [higher and ] a consequence of communities having significant numbers of undocumented residents [especially when national leaders and the local law enforcement authorities have poor and distrustful relationships with the communities that have more people living in the shadows.

          I’m not going to write with great knowledge on the purpose and cause of these gangs, but I know others more knowledge tie it to the intervention of the US in El Salvador during the Henry Kissinger / Elliott Abrams period. An illustrative event of the period was the assassination of Saint Archbishop Óscar Romero while celebrating Catholic Mass. Romero spoke out against poverty, social injustice, assassinations, and torture.

  4. It’s comforting that these sorts of arrests continue into our new era of criminal justice enforcement. Thanks to our police for bringing these criminals to justice, and hopefully federal prosecutors can lock down convictions.

  5. Of course it does, then you ask if these “Latinx” individuals are undocumented?

    The federal authorities convened a grand jury, which approved the indictments based on the evidence presented. Ask Chesa Boudin about gang injunctions….

  6. For some reason they keep finding police guns in Surenos hands.

    That’s not suspicious at all.
    Move on……..Nothing to see here……..

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