An alleged MS-13 gang member charged in connection with two 2008 gang-related shootings in Northern Virginia appeared in federal court for the first time Thursday after government officials in El Salvador took the unusual step of extraditing one of their own citizens to face attempted murder and gun charges abroad.
Edgar Benitez Hernandez, 25, who sometimes uses the nickname “Shadow,” leaned into a translator during the minutes-long hearing in federal district court in Alexandria and told a magistrate judge he understood that the charges against him carry a possible life sentence. Assistant U.S. Attorney Zachary Terwilliger said in court that under an agreement with the government of El Salvador, prosecutors intend to pursue four of the original eight charges on which Hernandez was indicted — all connected to a Sept. 13, 2008, double-shooting in Loudoun County.
They will not pursue charges connected to the shooting of a 14-year-old in Sterling in August 2008. A federal magistrate judge ordered Hernandez to be jailed while he awaits his next court appearance.
Court filings accuse Hernandez of being a member of MS-13 and say that both shootings were gang-related. Prosecutors said in a news release that a Salvadoran investigative unit called the Transnational Anti Gang Taskforce took him into custody in his home country in May and extradited him to the U.S. Wednesday — marking the first time in recent history the country had done so in a case involving one of its own citizens.