2008-05-23 / Front Page

Five Fall In Drive-By Salvo Of Shots

By Howard Schwach

Five men were shot and wounded as they stood on a Far Rockaway street corner early on Sunday morning, in what police are terming a drive-by shooting committed by six Long Island residents.

Police officers search the area of the shooting for clues. Six suspects were quickly rounded up after eyewitnesses described the car they were driving. Police officers search the area of the shooting for clues. Six suspects were quickly rounded up after eyewitnesses described the car they were driving. According to police sources, the five local residents were standing at the corner of Beach 21 Street and Mott Avenue when multiple shots were fired by someone in a moving white Jeep SUV.

While the police have declined to identify the victims, sources say that most of the wounds were to the extremities and none were life threatening. Four of the victims were transported to area hospitals. The fifth, a 25-year-old man, walked to St. John's Episcopal Hospital in Far Rockaway. The ages of the victims ranged from 20 to 66-years-of-age.

Police responding to a call of shots fired quickly put out a call for the white Jeep.

A Jeep Cherokee matching the description was stopped nearby, in front of 1075 Beach 21 Street, and the six people riding inside were arrested. Police say that a .357 Taurus handgun was recovered from the rear seat of the Jeep. According to court records, the gun had six spent shell casings in the cylinder.

Oblan Gonzalez, 19, of 8 Cedar Street in Roosevelt, was charged with attempted murder and criminal possession of a weapon, sources say.

All of the other people in the car, which was being driven by Jonathan Cruz, are from Uniondale and Hempstead, in Nassau County.

Court records provided by Queens District Attorney Richard Brown identify the others, all of whom have been charged with criminal possession of a weapon, as:

Jonathan Cruz, 20, of 660 Lowell Street in Uniondale;

Yesena Velasquez, 18, of 54 Greenwich Street and Hempstead;

Melissa Henriquez, 17, of 8 Virginia Street in Hempstead;

Joshua Matheu, 16, of 91 Harvard Street in Hempstead; and

Michelle Maldonado, 19, of 117 Glagladys Avenue in Hempstead.

Police sources speculated that the shootings were sparked by a earlier argument between Gonzalez and one of the wounded men. The shooter may then have left the area and come back with his friends and the weapon.

On Wednesday, Captain Brian McMahon, the Commanding Officer of the 101 Precinct, said that the Nassau County residents were all members of a violent street gang.

"[Those who were arrested] were from Hempstead," he said. "They were all members of MS 13, which originated in Honduras.

What they were doing here, we're trying to track down, but they triggered something by doing this, and they released a lot of anger by doing this. It's outside influences dictating the way we live here [in Rockaway.]"

If convicted of the charges, the five charged with criminal possession of a weapon face up to seven years in prison, according to a spokesperson for District Attorney Brown.

All of the defendants were arraigned on May 19 in Queens Supreme Court before Judge Gene Lope.

Bail was set at $15,000 and the defendants next court date was set at May 23.

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