Prosecutors: Investigators still seeking fifth Southold shooter
A fifth man is currently being sought by police for his alleged role in last Tuesday’s shooting in Southold, a Suffolk prosecutor said Wednesday during the arraignments of three men accused in the attack.
A total of four men so far have been arrested by police. They’ve all been indicted and arraigned on violent felony charges of assault and gang assault.
They are all being held in county jail on $500,000 cash bail or $1 million bond.
Authorities say Pedro Emilio Santamaria, 31 of Greenport; Jeremias Nathanael Recinos Torres, 19, of Aquebogue; Freddie Fernando Torres Campos, 16, of Southold and Walter Vasquez, 17, of Greenport all took part in an attack that left two men shot.
One of those men was shot multiple and also slashed with a machete.
One of the alleged assailants, Mr. Vasquez, was also shot by friendly fire, police have said.
Suffolk County assistant district attorney Ryan Hunter said Wednesday that the one victim who was shot and slashed still has a bullet trapped in his spine from the attack.
Mr. Hunter said in court that Mr. Vasquez admitted in a written statement to receiving an order from a “high-ranking MS-13 leader” instructing him to “do something bad” to the two victims, who were thought to be members of the 18th Street gang, also known as Mara 18.
But attorney Lane Bubka, who was appointed to represent Mr. Vasquez said the confession doesn’t back up authorities’ claims that his client was a member of the gang.
“He may be with gang members, but he is not a gang member,” Mr. Bubka said.
The 31-year-old Mr. Santamaria also gave a written statement to investigators, Mr. Hunter said, through which he admitted to being a passenger in a car with the three other codefendants and a fifth man “driving around… Southold looking for 18th Street gang members.”
Mr. Santamaria also allegedly admitted to hiding a gun supposedly used in the assault under the backseat of the car he and Mr. Torres were caught in by Southold Town police.
Mr. Santamaria’s attorney, David Geller of the Legal Aid Society, said his office was still investigating the charges and couldn’t comment on the case.
Mr. Torres — represented by Luis Pagan — allegedly admitted that he lied to police and had heard discussions among his codefendants planning the assault, Mr. Hunter said. The prosecutor added that Mr. Torres served as the driver and lookout during the attack.
Mr. Torres and Mr. Santamaria were additionally charged with criminal possession of a firearm, a felony.
All three men arraigned Wednesday are citizens of El Salvador, and both Mr. Torres and Mr. Vasquez are living in the country illegally, according to prosecutors; Mr. Santamaria’s immigration status wasn’t discussed in court.
Mr. Campos — also in the country illegally — had been arraigned in county court Tuesday afternoon.
Mr. Hunter later said that the fifth alleged attacker is still at large.
“It’s still under investigation,” he said outside Justice William Condon’s courtroom.
All four defendants are due back in court next month.