Burke Knifing Blamed on Gangs

By Tom Jackman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, August 9, 2005

A teenage boy was stabbed yesterday afternoon during a confrontation apparently between two rival Latino gangs behind a Fairfax County shopping center, and one suspect had been arrested by early evening, police said.

Witnesses said the victim was 15 and was stabbed in the stomach, chest and arm, injuries described by police as not life-threatening. The suspects are members of Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, the largest street gang in the region, and the victim is a member of South Side Locos, another large gang, the witnesses said.

The fight occurred behind the Burke Village Center, near the Virginia Railway Express tracks that run alongside the rear of the center, home to restaurants, a Giant Food store, an allergy center and a gymnasium for small children.

The train tracks bisect Old Burke Lake Road, and participants in the fight were walking along the road in opposite directions about 1:15 p.m., Officer Bud Walker said. He said two groups of people had an argument of unknown origin, and then the victim was stabbed.

Members of the Fairfax gang unit were investigating. Walker said police did not think the stabbing was related to knife attacks in Montgomery County, including one at a Target store in Wheaton.

Fairfax police have reported at least four gang-related stabbings since Memorial Day weekend. A teenager believed to be an MS-13 member attacked another teenager with a machete in Springfield on May 29. Other gang-related stabbings have been reported on South Kings Highway in the Alexandria area of the county on June 18, Leesburg Pike in the Seven Corners area on June 19, and Commerce Street in Springfield on July 24. None of the injuries was life-threatening.

Since 2000, 11 homicides have been attributed to Latino gangs in Northern Virginia. The most recent, in January, involved the shooting of a 15-year-old on Bismach Drive in the Alexandria area. No arrests have been made, but police suspect MS-13 members in the shooting and believe the youth was not a gang member and was targeted mistakenly.

In the Burke incident yesterday, a 15-year-old who said he was walking with the victim described the sequence of events. The youth, who is not being identified because he is a witness, said he and the victim are members of South Side Locos.

Both Locos and MS-13 have their origins in the Salvadoran community of Los Angeles.

As the two Locos members walked along Old Burke Lake Road, they recognized two teenagers whom they knew to be members of MS-13, the 15-year-old said. He said the MS-13 members were accompanied by two girls.

"I wanted to fight," the 15-year-old said. But his rival "punked out. He told me to meet him here," in the shopping center's parking lot.

He said his friend challenged the opponent, saying, " 'Let's do it right now.' Then they took out the blade. [The friend] asked, 'Why you have to take out a knife to fight?' He went to their face. Then one of them stabbed him."

The 15-year-old said his friend ran while the blows kept coming.

The victim's brother said that the knife wounds were not serious but that the incident would probably spark retaliation. Police gang experts have often said that the motivation for many gang-on-gang attacks comes from earlier slights or fights.

Two people were believed to have committed the stabbings, Walker said. The participants scattered, and a suspect was later arrested.

All participants are believed to be juveniles, and charges had not been filed by early last night.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company