Father of Pr. George’s boy, 14, killed in shooting: ‘It broke my heart’

December 5, 2012

By his father’s account, 14-year-old Eliezer Benjamin Reyes headed out for the night about 5:30 p.m. Tuesday — ignoring his dad’s pleas to stay in the house and out of trouble.

“I say, ‘I love you, and don’t run out tonight. Don’t go anywhere,’ ” Jose Reyes said.

It was his last conversation with his son. As the teen walked along Sheridan Street in the Lewisdale area of Prince George’s County just after midnight, a van drove by and gunfire erupted. Eliezer was fatally shot, and a 19-year-old with him was shot and injured.

“I am broken,” Jose Reyes said in an interview Wednesday. “It broke my heart.”

Investigators believe the crime to be gang-related, and they think that Reyes was shot in part because he was walking among a group that included two “documented gang members.”

Reyes said his son did not belong to a gang, although he did not know whether his son’s friends or relatives might have.

“He’s a good boy,” Reyes said. “He’s quiet. He don’t talk too much. He respect the old[er] people.”

Reyes said his son enjoyed playing basketball and soccer and had recently begun attending the Foundation School, an alternative school in Largo for students with behavioral or emotional disabilities.

Before that, Reyes said, Eliezer had attended Nicholas Orem Middle School in the Hyattsville area.

Police would not officially identify the gangs involved, saying they did not want to give them any desired attention. Law enforcement officials familiar with the case said that while the teen did not seem to be a confirmed gang member, others with him belonged to a group known as the Lewisdale Crew.

Those in the van, the officials said, are believed to have been members of MS-13, a group with Salvadoran roots also known as Mara Salvatrucha. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they could be disciplined for speaking publicly about an ongoing investigation.

Police said Eliezer was walking in the 2200 block of Sheridan Street with a group of people just after midnight when shots started flying out of a passing van. The 19-year-old struck by gunfire was expected to survive, police said.

Julie Parker, a Prince George’s police spokeswoman, said investigators had recovered the van. As of early Wednesday evening, they had not arrested or charged anyone with the teen’s death. She said investigators had leads but declined to say what those leads were to protect the investigation.

Reyes said that while his son had complained of people “following him” at school, he had “no idea” who might have shot the teen. Asked about a possible gang connection, he said, “I think it’s bad people, you know? . . . It’s like a hot area here.”

A Prince George’s schools spokesman said grief counselors would be available at Nicholas Orem on Thursday, and a letter was sent home with students informing their parents of what had happened.

Parker said that because the shooting is believed to have been gang-related, gang detectives would be “out in force in the community” distributing fliers and investigating the case.

“Retaliation is always a possibility when you’re talking about gang-related crime, so the most prudent thing the department can do is devote its gang unit to this case and work around the clock, which it is doing,” she said.

Magda Jean-Louis contributed to this report.

Matt Zapotosky covers the federal district courthouse in Alexandria, where he tries to break news from a windowless office in which he is not allowed to bring his cell phone.
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