WASHINGTON — An MS-13 gang member, who was only 16 at the time, has been convicted of ordering the deaths of two men he thought were members of a rival gang — but weren’t.
The two men survived, but remain unidentified, fearing reprisals.
Jose Zaldivar, of Montgomery Village, was convicted on four counts Thursday in Montgomery County District Court. He faces up to 61 1/2 years in prison when he’s sentenced, Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy said at a news conference Friday.
He said Zaldivar saw the two men at the Lakeforest Mall, in Gaithersburg, Maryland, late last September wearing red, the colors of a rival gang. Zaldivar called fellow gang members and plotted their attack.
One member stabbed the tires on the car of one of the victims. When the two approached the car and saw the tires, they turned around to return to the mall — but four gang members, all armed with knives, gave chase.
As the two got to the doors of the mall, another man lying in wait slashed at them, hitting one victim in the buttocks. The assault was caught on mall security cameras.
“As a result of mistaking these men as being members of a rival gang, Zaldivar — who was only 16 at the time — ordered them to be killed,” said McCarthy. “These men ran for their lives — took sanctuary in the mall. One man was actually stabbed. Thankfully he sustained only minor injuries.”
Zaldivar was convicted of first-degree assault, second-degree assault, malicious destruction of property (the tires) and conspiracy to commit first-degree assault. He’s scheduled to be sentenced July 28.