A Texas MS-13 gang member drove a fellow member to his execution in a park. Now, the driver will remain behind bars for decades.
Last week, a Harris County judge sentenced Luis Gonzalez Cruz, 26, to life in prison for the shooting death of Estuar Quinones. Though Cruz was initially charged for capital murder, he pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of murder to avoid the death penalty or life in prison without parole. The defendant admitted driving 16-year-old Quinones to his death after the gang discovered the victim had been a cooperating witness and had agreed to testify against other MS-13 members for a previous murder.
According to prosecutors, the 28-year-old leader of the Houston area MS-13 street gang, Omar Torres, ordered Quinones’ execution while he was in custody for the shooting death of a rival gang member Noe Mendez. The victim had been present at the shooting on Feb. 24, 2016, in the 5700 Block of Rampart in the Gulfton area.
"Instead of showing remorse after being arrested for gunning down someone in cold blood, this defendant doubled down and had a witness killed to cover his tracks. Someone who can take life so easily deserves to spend the rest of his life behind bars without the chance of ever getting out," said Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg, according to ABC 13.
On June 13, 2016, other members were waiting for them at Buffalo Run Park at Missouri City, Texas, unbeknown to Quinones. While he sat on a bench, other gang members, including Cruz, shot the victim more than 15 times.
The large volume of shots was to make sure there was zero chance of Quinones surviving the ordeal.
“Gang violence is an insidious and treacherous cycle of brutality and is particularly heinous when a cooperating witness is killed.It will never have a place in our city or county,” said Ogg.
While Torres was sentenced to life without parole, another gang member, Lopez Ramos, also accepted a plea deal regarding Quinones’ killing. He was sentenced to 40 years in prison.
The MS-13 gang that originated from Los Angeles has become one of the most violent and notorious gangs in Texas, such as the Texas Mexican Mafia and The Texas Syndicate. They also have deep roots beyond the United States borders, especially in El-Salvador.