An MS-13 gang member killed a man for wearing a jersey with former NFL quarterback Peyton Manning’s name on it to gain more recognition within the gang, prosecutors said Tuesday.
Suarez pleaded not guilty to murdering Alvarado-Bonilla while the alleged shooter, Mario Aguilar-Lopez, pleaded guilty in 2018 and is awaiting sentencing.
“The only way he could rise up the ranks … was to commit outrageous acts of violence, including murder,” U.S. Assistant Attorney Raymond A. Tierney told a Central Islip courtroom during his opening argument.
Prosecutors say Suarez and his fellow gang members chose to kill the victim because he was wearing a Manning jersey with the number 18 on it, leading them to believe Alvarado-Bonilla was part of the rival 18th Street gang.
Tierney said Suarez served as the getaway driver and a messenger relaying information to gang leaders.
“He was to wait … he was to let the leader know the hit was on” while the shooter entered the deli and allegedly fired five shots at the victim, striking his head.
A stray bullet also wounded a female deli clerk. She survived the incident.
MS-13’s gang members often choose their targets as a way to improve street credibility within the gang. The New York Police Department (NYPD) announced in February that they received a tip that the violent gang would be targeting NYPD officers living in Long Island.
The violent gang, which has origins in Central America, has been carrying out multiple acts of violence in the New York metropolitan area recently.
In early February, a group of MS-13 gang members allegedly shot and killed a man in broad daylight on a Queens, New York, subway platform.
The NYPD was accused in that case of attempting to shield the alleged gang member, Ramiro Gutierrez, 26, from the public eye after authorities said he shot Abel Mosso, 20, on a crowded subway platform in Queens, New York.