Teen's Hands Severed In N.Va. Machete Attack
By Maria Glod and Tom Jackman
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, May 11, 2004; Page B01
A 16-year-old Alexandria area boy's hands were severed with a machete early yesterday when he was attacked by several people believed to be members of a rival gang, Fairfax County police said.
The teenager was walking alone along Edsall Road in the Alexandria area of Fairfax about 1 a.m. when he was attacked, said Officer Bud Walker, a police spokesman. Physicians at Inova Fairfax Hospital worked for hours and were able to reattach both hands, but the victim lost four fingers, Walker said.
"It's a pretty vicious attack," Walker said.
He would not say what sparked the assault, saying only that the victim and assailants were members of rival gangs. Law enforcement sources said the victim is a suspected member of the South Side Locos gang, and his attackers are reputed members of the Mara Salvatrucha gang, also known as MS-13.
The incident is the latest sign of the increasing gang activity that has plagued the Washington region. In recent years, Mara Salvatrucha, considered by police to be among the most dangerous gangs in the area, has been linked to at least five killings in Northern Virginia, as well as shootings, other machete attacks, baseball-bat beatings and stabbings.
A suspected member of the South Side Locos was slain in the parking lot of a Fairfax County hotel last month. Police said it was unrelated to yesterday's machete attack.
Although MS-13 is considered the biggest menace in the area, police across Northern Virginia count about a dozen criminally active gangs. Police have developed regional task forces that allow gang investigators to regularly meet and share information about gang crimes and members.
Gang experts said that it's difficult to gauge the intent of the attackers but that the assault could have been either a personal attack against the 16-year-old or intended as a broader attack on the youth's entire gang.
"They were trying to send a message," said Robert Walker, a former Drug Enforcement Administration special agent who runs a gang identification training program for law enforcement officers.
"Gangs deal in what we call the three R's. The first is reputation, and they want to do all they can to build that. The second is respect . . . and the third is retaliation or revenge."
Walker, the Fairfax police spokesman, said the 16-year-old was walking in a residential area near Interstate 395 when he was attacked. Neighbors heard the youth crying for help and called police, Walker said. By the time officers arrived, the assailants had fled.
The teenager's wounds were life-threatening, police said, but he is expected to survive. It is not known how much use of his hands he will regain, they said.
Walker said detectives are following some "active leads" in the case, but he declined to elaborate.
In last month's incident involving the South Side Locos, police said they believe members of three gangs who had rented rooms at the Days Inn at 6100 Richmond Highway in the Alexandria area began arguing in the parking lot about 4:30 a.m.
One of the men pulled a handgun and shot Christian J. Aranzana-Vasquez, 19, fatally wounding him. Aranzana-Vasquez, who police said was a member of the South Side Locos, and his assailants were from two smaller gangs police would not name.
Three men were charged with participating in a street gang and taking part in a homicide.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company