Three face attempted murder, hate crimes charges

By Dan Morse
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 10, 2009; 5:39 PM

Three men face attempted murder and hate crime charges in Montgomery County for allegedly attacking a group that included a transvestite who had seen one of the suspects hours earlier in a restaurant, according to police charging documents.

The suspects, who police think are affiliated with the MS-13 gang, threw rocks and bottles and yelled anti-gay slurs at three others late last month along Weisman Road in Wheaton, police said this week. One of the victims, a 30-year-old woman, was struck on the forehead, fracturing her skull and causing bleeding in her brain that required a craniotomy, according to the charging documents.

As of late October, police anticipated that she would need additional surgeries. She has been released from the hospital but is still recovering, police said this week.

"This was a brutal hate crime," Officer Melanie Brenner, a Montgomery police spokeswoman, said Tuesday.

Officers employed a new technology -- AFIS, or Automated Fingerprint Identification System -- to help identify two of the suspects, authorities said. The mobile fingerprint readers can find a match in a matter of minutes, police said.

The three men were born in El Salvador, according to court records. Immigration enforcement officers have placed detainers on all three, according to jail officials, an indication that they could be in the country illegally. Police identified them as Cinder Tobar-Campos, 23, of the 1200 block of Knoll Mist Lane in Montgomery Village; William A. Mendoza, 30, of the 7300 block of 23rd Avenue in Hyattsville; and Felix Arevalo-Cantarero, 24, of the 3400 block of Farthing Drive in Wheaton. Attorneys for the suspects could not be reached Tuesday.

Officers were alerted to the assault at 2:30 a.m. Oct. 25. Witnesses said that the three victims -- two women, 30 and 24, and a 24-year-old man -- were walking in the 2600 block of Weisman when a green, two-door car passed them and parked. Three men got out, said they were MS-13, flashed gang signs and threw the bottles and rocks while yelling "faggots" and "lesbians" at the victims, according to police charging documents signed by Montgomery Detective Kye Pak.

In addition to the woman who was hit in the head, another victim was hit in the back with a rock, police said. One of the victims, Pak noted, is a transvestite who was dressed as a woman at the time of the attack. At one point, one of the assailants pulled a knife from his sock and said he would stab the victims if they didn't leave, according to police.

Three days later, police staked out an area near Umberto's, a restaurant and nightclub, Pak wrote. That led them to Mendoza and Tobar-Campos, police said. The third suspect, Arevalo-Cantarero, whose nickname is "Blackie," was arrested Friday in Prince George's County, police said.

All three suspects have arrest records, Pak wrote, including charges of burglary, theft and drug possession. Pak ascribed no other motive but hate for the assault: "The crime was not a robbery or a theft and the attack was not premeditated for any other motives."

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