Another victim in the recent spate of violence in Langley Park has died, three days after he was beaten, stomped and cut in the face with the edges of broken beer bottles. He was the third man killed in a five-block area.
Lucas Lazaro Felipe, 25, was pronounced dead Wednesday morning. He was beaten Sunday night on University Boulevard, not far from the scenes of three other attacks. Two men were killed and a third injured in a throat slashing Aug. 10, a teenage girl was cut in the neck after an argument last Friday night and a man's hand was nearly severed by a machete Sunday.
Prince George's County police have not made arrests in the cases, although they said they have promising leads. Police officials said they do not believe the attacks are related.
Dozens of officers spread across Langley Park yesterday, going door-to-door and passing out fliers that said "Information Wanted" and, in Spanish, "Se Necesita Informacion."
"We want people to know we are concerned about this area," said Lt. Col. Roberto Hylton, deputy chief for the bureau of investigations. "We are working hard to figure out who committed these crimes."
A police official, who was interviewed on condition of anonymity because the cases are open, said detectives are investigating whether three of the crimes involved either gambling or drug debts, and whether the fourth stemmed from an argument involving teenagers.
Hylton said he is forming a task force of homicide and other investigators to search for common threads and possible gang involvement. "We are conducting an in-depth evaluation of whether there is any type of organized crime involved here," Hylton said. "At this point, we have not identified any."
The investigation has been complicated by an inherent distrust of police by some in the neighborhood. This week, officers faced sharp criticism from Latino community residents who said they don't trust police and don't feel comfortable coming forward.
Still, residents said they want the cases solved. At a neighborhood meeting Monday to address gang violence, some demanded to know of any progress.
"We need to know what's going on," said Silvia Navas, who manages the employment program for the community group Casa de Maryland. "We need to know if the police officers are mobilizing to protect us in Langley Park."
Juan Carlos Ruiz, a special adviser for Casa, said agency workers had been knocking on doors for a week, trying to get more residents to attend the meeting with authorities.
" 'For what?' they asked us," Ruiz said. " 'If we go there, we'll be deported,' they said. 'If we go, we'll face revenge from the gangs in the neighborhood.' A lot of people are afraid to come forward."
Some who attended the meeting said they have been taken off guard by immigration officials who have identified themselves as "police."
Newspaper vendor Ana Perez struggled to keep from crying as she faced Prince George's State's Attorney Glenn F. Ivey and two senior police commanders at the meeting.
"How do you expect us to believe in you?" said Perez, 33, originally from El Salvador. A man with a microphone was translating her Spanish to English.
She said that one day last week, officers came to her Langley Park apartment and identified themselves as police. When she opened the door, Perez said, they stormed in and said they were immigration agents. She said they arrested her husband, Juan Mejias, a carpenter whose working papers had expired. He faces deportation.
"How are we going to trust you when you are giving us a lot of pain?" continued Perez, her voice cracking. "I don't know where my husband is now."
Maj. Mark A. Magaw made it clear that his police officers had nothing to do with immigration authorities. "The Prince George's County police does not target anyone for deportation," Magaw said. "The police don't care if you've been here two months or two years. The department of immigration is a whole different matter, and it is not us."
Immigration authorities could not be reached yesterday.
Ivey urged residents to work with police, as well as join the PTA, church and community groups. "One thing I can promise," he said. "If we don't work together, it will get worse."
After Magaw urged the audience and the community to help, Perez shook her head. It would take more than that to gain her trust, she said.
"I can't believe that," she told a reporter. "This is not the first time. I've called the police too many times. And whenever I call, they take two to three hours to get here."
Still, she said, the community wants to help the police.
"We, as a community, could help you," she told the officials. "But we also want to believe in you."