By Connor Adams Sheets
A Flushing gang member who murdered a 15-year-old boy because of a mistaken identity on Christmas Eve in 2006 was sentenced to 38 years in prison for the crime in Brooklyn federal court Friday.
Hector Portillo, a soldier of the international La Mara Salvatrucha gang, more commonly known as MS-13, pleaded guilty to shooting John Bowne High School ninth-grader Pashad Gray multiple times at close range, after mistaking him for a member of the rival Bloods gang who had stabbed him during a previous altercation, according to the FBI’s New York office.
Police said they found Gray with a single gunshot wound to the chest, an injury which later killed him, outside 132-40 Sanford Ave., less than a block from his home. Portillo was caught in November 2008 in a large-scale gang sweep that led to the arrests of eight MS-13 members.
A violent offender, Portillo, 20, was also charged with a pattern of violent attacks, including the stabbing and beating of two teenagers in Aug. 26 ,and was convicted of participating in a February 2006 drive-by shooting during which a teenager was shot but not killed. After his release from prison, Portillo, who is in the United States illegally, is subject to deportation to El Salvador, according to the FBI.
Portillo was unwilling to repent for his crimes in court, according to the New York Post.
“Can me and my family get an apology?” Gray’s sister Rynadia Whittingtondo asked Judge Sterling Johnson, the Post reported.
“I gave him the opportunity, but [Portillo] declined to speak,” Johnson said, according to the Post.
MS-13, comprised primarily of immigrants from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, is the largest street gang on Long Island and has a major presence in Queens, according to the FBI. In the past four years, law enforcement agencies have obtained felony convictions against more than 20 New York City members of MS-13.
“Violent street gangs such as MS-13 prey on our community and relish the beating, stabbing and shooting of perceived rivals, with disregard for bystanders caught in their cross-hairs,” said Benton Campbell, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, in a statement. “Today’s sentence reflects the severity of such crimes and affirms our unwavering commitment to dismantle street gangs and bring their members to justice.”
The murders of Gray and 21-year-old Maurice Parker, also of Flushing, on May 18, 2007 unleashed a strong community outcry that brought elected officials to local rallies against gang violence.
Two MS-13 members, Julio Chavez and Oscar Fuentes, were charged together in March 2009 in a superseding indictment with murdering Parker. Their next status conference is April 16 in federal court in Brooklyn.
Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.