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Rival Gang Members Attack Boy, Police Say

By Ian Shapira
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 25, 2005; Page B05

A 14-year-old boy was beaten with baseball bats and stabbed Wednesday night by four teenagers in a rival gang in a Manassas area neighborhood that has been fraught with violence in recent months, police said yesterday.

The victim, a member of the South Side Locos gang, was attacked as he was walking in the Irongate neighborhood near Community Drive just after 7 p.m., said Detective Dennis Mangan, a police spokesman. Four members of Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) jumped out of a car and started beating him with baseball bats and "other assorted implements" and stabbed him with a metal object, Mangan said. The investigation is ongoing, he said.

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The boy, who was not identified, was flown to a hospital and is expected to survive, Mangan said. Four MS-13 gang members, who are 18 and 19 years old, were arrested in the area near their vehicle. Each was charged with aggravated malicious wounding and criminal street gang participation.

The incident is the latest outbreak of violence in the Irongate neighborhood, a mix of brick and vinyl siding townhouses off Route 234 near the city of Manassas. In August, law enforcement officials said, four MS-13 members sealed off the exits of an Irongate home, and one of them fatally shot a fellow gang member who they thought was cooperating with federal authorities. Late last month, police said, a 14-year-old boy shot a 16-year-old boy in the face -- after the victim had gotten off a school bus -- in a fight over CDs or DVDs. That incident was not gang-related, police said.

Prince William Commonwealth's Attorney Paul B. Ebert said the latest Irongate incident is alarming because it shows that gangs are not only recruiting boys as young as 14, but also targeting them for attacks.

"We have a prevention program in the schools, but it doesn't seem to touch a lot of [gang members] because they've never gone to school in the county," Ebert said.

Joy Banegas, 46, an elementary school teacher who lives a few doors from the site of the gang-related slaying in August, said Irongate was once highly prized because of its proximity to Route 234, a commuting artery where several shopping centers and Prince William Hospital are located. But in the last five years, she said, gang members have flooded the neighborhood, and residents are not taking any action to make the community safer.

"People want to turn their back," she said. "We're a community that needs to wake up."

The men arrested in Wednesday night's attack are Saul A. Mandoza, 18, and Pablo E. Maradiagra-Benitez, 19, both of the 11000 block of Coles Drive in Manassas; Dennys A. Vasquez-Hernandez, 18, of the 10000 block of Copeland Drive in Manassas; and Mario A. Rodriguez, 19, of the 6800 block of Ruskin Street in Springfield.

All are being held without bond pending a May court hearing.

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