A 13-year-old linked to a local gang allegedly ambushed another teenager along a residential street in Wheaton this week, shot her in the back and then stood over her and fired at her head — the bullets stopped by the forearm she had raised to protect herself, Montgomery County police said Thursday.
The assault was the latest act of violence that detectives say is associated with the Little R gang, the subject of intense law enforcement efforts over the past two years. Detectives alleged that the 13-year-old and a 19-year-old accomplice targeted the 18-year-old victim because they thought that she had spoken to police about the gang.
“It’s fortunate that she’s not dead,” said Capt. Paul Starks, a police spokesman. “She was able to block multiple rounds with her forearm.”
Both suspects have been charged with attempted murder and other counts.
Police did not release the name of the 13-year-old, from Montgomery, because he has been charged as a juvenile. He was being held at a juvenile detention facility in Rockville.
Police identified the 19-year-old as Eber Umanzor of the 3000 block of University Boulevard in Kensington. He was being held without bond Thursday.
Other cases against Little R members have been working their way through the court system. On Thursday, a suspected gang member was indicted in connection with a years-old rape. In June, another member was sentenced for armed robbery.
Police and prosecutors have made a considerable dent in the gang’s leadership over the past two years, but members continue to be a problem in and around the Wheaton area.
“As long as they commit crimes, we will prosecute them,” said Ramon Korionoff, a spokesman for the Montgomery state’s attorney’s office.
Over the years, Little R members have been involved in at least one murder as well as rapes, sexual assaults, robberies and assaults, according to court records.
In the latest incident, the 18-year-old victim and several friends were hanging out early Wednesday when they decided to go to the Safeway store in Wheaton to get something to eat, according to police accounts. At some point, they began to send phone messages to the 13-year-old, who was an acquaintance.
The young women tried to meet up with him, got frustrated and started walking to one of their homes. Shortly before 5:30 a.m. Wednesday, a white SUV pulled up near them. The 13-year-old slipped out of the vehicle and concealed himself in shrubbery, police said.
Armed with a handgun, he suddenly appeared and approached the victim, Starks said. As the young woman turned to run, the 13-year-old shot her in the back, he said.
She fell to the ground as he moved closer to her, continuing to shoot, police said. He took her cellphone, got back into the SUV and fled. Police allege that Umanzor was driving the SUV.
Operators at the county’s 911 center first learned of trouble when they received an “open-line call” with sounds of a woman in distress, police said. They traced the call to the area of Plyers Mill Road and Douglas Avenue, several blocks south of downtown Wheaton.
Soon after, police learned that the 18-year-old was being treated for gunshot wounds at an emergency room in Silver Spring. She was released from the hospital later Wednesday.
As of Thursday, detectives had located the white SUV, which is registered to Umanzor, but had not found the gun, authorities said. Umanzor is expected to be in court Friday for a bond review hearing.
The gang is also known as Lil R or La Ere. In another recent case linked to the gang, Jose “Lil Boy” Gomez-Velasquez, 22, was indicted Thursday on first-degree rape and other counts in an incident seven years ago. He allegedly forced a 12-year-old to have sex as other gang members chanted in another room, “La Ere all day every day,” according to arrest records.
And in June, gang member David Aguilar, 17, of Silver Spring was sentenced to 18 months in jail after pleading guilty to armed robbery, according to court records.
The records stated that Aguilar and a friend showed up at a party in November and demanded to come inside. When people came out of the house, Aguilar pulled out a gun and robbed one of them, the records said.
After he was apprehended, detectives looked at Aguilar’s phone and linked pictures on it to the robbery — including at least one, taken inside a vehicle, that showed Aguilar holding a gun, according to the arrest records.
Victoria St. Martin and Jennifer Jenkins contributed to this report.