MS-13: 7 on trial accused of gang violence

Bob Egelko (San Francisco Chronicle) | April 5, 2011

San Francisco’s biggest gang trial in years opened Monday with a federal prosecutor accusing seven men of terrorizing city neighborhoods with assaults, shakedowns and four 2008 murders.

They are “a group that lives, breathes and celebrates violence,” said Justice Department attorney Theryn Gibbons.

From the mid-1990s onward, Gibbons said, local leaders of El Salvador-based Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, have used fear and intimidation to control their Mission District turf, extort money from drug dealers and phony-document peddlers, and eliminate rivals.

Gang members are initiated by undergoing a brutal beating – which lasts 13 seconds – and then “rise in the ranks through acts of violence,” Gibbons said in her opening statement in a U.S. District Court trial that could last six months.

She said their attitude was illustrated by the July 2008 shooting death of Armando Estrada, 30, of Rodeo, a seller of fake documents who had refused to pay “taxes” to MS-13 in its territory.

Gang member Guillermo Herrera, 20, fired a shotgun into the back of Estrada’s head in broad daylight at 20th and Mission streets, then got into a car, “pulled down his blue bandana and laughed,” the prosecutor said.

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