A member of a notorious street gang who slashed a rival with a machete in May and helped draw attention to the region's growing problem with gangs was sentenced yesterday to 15 years in prison.
Hayner R. Flores, 18, of Annandale was the second of three men sentenced for the assault along Edsall Road in the Alexandria area of Fairfax County, in which a 16-year-old boy lost four fingers on one hand and suffered deep gashes to his head and back. Flores is a member of Mara Salvatrucha, the largest street gang in Northern Virginia, and he expressed no regrets yesterday for the attack.
"One cannot apologize or ask for pardon," Flores told Fairfax Circuit Court Judge Dennis J. Smith through an interpreter. "What happened happened. It's in the past."
Smith seemed stunned by Flores's lack of remorse. "It may be in the past," Smith said, "but this victim is a young man whose future has been severely diminished. This gang nonsense has to stop."
In addition to the prison sentence, Smith ordered Flores to make restitution for the victim's medical bills, both to his family and insurance company. The victim was not in court, but his parents were. They said insurance has covered about $78,000, and the family has paid $27,000.
"All the savings, the dreams, they went away," the victim's mother said. "I hope young guys learn from this real, real bad experience." The family's name is being withheld to protect the victim's identity.
Shortly after midnight on May 10, Flores, Cristobal Z. Medrano, 18, and Jose Cruz-Melendez, 19, were standing near a 7-Eleven on Edsall Road. Prosecutors said that a car of young women pulled up and that the women shouted slogans for South Side Locos, or SSL, another large street gang, and insults to Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13. Medrano reportedly hurled a bottle at the car, which drove off.
Minutes later, a second car pulled up, and three men with baseball bats chased Flores, Medrano and Cruz-Melendez. The three MS-13 members escaped into an apartment building. Not long after that, prosecutors said, the three men emerged with machetes and chased the SSL members.
The victim they caught "was on the ground and defenseless," Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Jay R. Nanavati said. "They began to cut him with machetes, all over his body. This was clearly an act to send a message to members of SSL, that members of MS-13 were not to be trifled with."
Though the victim's hands were tattooed with "SSL," his hands were not the target, Nanavati said. "In the process of doing damage to his back and head," the prosecutor said, "they managed to do the most damage to his hands . . . . They are just horrific injuries."
Nine months before the attack, Nanavati said, Flores was convicted in juvenile court of carrying a concealed weapon. A condition of his probation was that he no longer associate with gangs. Instead, Nanavati said, Flores's body is covered in tattoos declaring his allegiance to MS-13. After his arrest, he carved "MS-13" into the window of his jail cell.
Flores's attorney, Gary M. Greenbaum, pointed out that Flores initially fled in fear for his life from the other gang members. "If Mr. Flores was less fleet of foot," Greenbaum said, "it would not be Mr. Flores sitting next to me today."
Greenbaum also noted that the victim in the case impeded the investigation by claiming to have been attacked without any provocation, and the victim told The Washington Post that he was not a gang member. Further investigation by Fairfax police uncovered the sequence of events.
Flores, Medrano and Cruz-Melendez all pleaded guilty to malicious wounding and gang participation. Medrano was sentenced last month to 15 years in prison. Cruz-Melendez is awaiting sentencing.
Smith called the attack "unconscionable . . . . It's a loss of humanity to wield a weapon in that way, and it's an absolute lack of respect for life." He sentenced Flores to the maximum terms on both charges: 20 years for the malicious wounding and 10 years for the gang participation, but suspended half of both sentences.