EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

May 15, 2013

Police arrest shooting suspect

Believed member of region's violent Trinitario gang

By Mike LaBella

---- — HAVERHILL — While taking Learde Rodriguez into custody inside an apartment in Lawrence, police said they found a folder containing a document referring to the Trinitario gang – a well-known group that uses machetes as its primary weapon.

Police said they believe Rodriguez is a member of the gang.

Rodriguez, 23, was arrested Monday following an investigation that lead police to 107 Lowell St., Apt. 1B, Lawrence, where they believed he was living. Rodriguez was wanted in Haverhill on a charge of assault with intent to murder in connection with an April 7 incident on Freeman Street, where a man was shot several times.

Rodriguez was also wanted in Lawrence in connection with an April 12 shooting in that city, where he faces charges of assault with intent to murder, discharging a firearm within 150 feet of a highway, carrying a firearm without a license and assault and battery with a dangerous weapon.

Police also arrested Jonathan Roman, 19, of 665 Essex St., Apt. 18, Lawrence. Roman was wanted in Lawrence for assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, unlawful possession of a firearm, unlawful possession of ammunition and improperly storing/securing a firearm.

During a search of the apartment, police said they found a .25-caliber Taurus model PT-25 pistol and a magazine with six .25-caliber rounds of ammunition and a single .25 caliber round.

As Rodriguez was getting ready to be escorted from the apartment by police, an 18-year-old woman whose name is on the apartment lease removed a set of green rosary beads from his neck, police said.

Rodriguez was arraigned yesterday in Lawrence District Court. According to the Essex District Attorney’s Office, Judge Kevin Gaffney ordered Rodriguez held for a dangerous hearing, which was to be scheduled today.

Carrie Kimball-Monahan, spokeswoman for Essex District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett, said Rodriguez is also expected to be brought to Haverhill District Court for his arraignment on charges stemming from the April 7 shooting on Freeman Street. Information about when that hearing will happen was unavailable.

Kimball-Monahan said Roman was ordered held pending a dangerousness hearing scheduled for May 21 in Lawrence District Court.

According to a police report, on Monday at 3:26 p.m. the Lawrence Police Special Operations Street Narcotics Enforcement Unit, working with the State Police Violent Fugitive Apprehension Section, went to 107 Lowell St., Apt. 1B in search of Rodriguez.

When officers entered the apartment, a man later identified as Roman jumped off a couch and began running into a bedroom, police said. He then fell to the floor and told police, “The gun on the couch is mine,” according to a police report. Officers said they found the .25-caliber Taurus model PT-25 pistol under a cushion of the couch.

Officers found Rodriguez in another bedroom and took him into custody. Police said the woman whose name was on the apartment lease was present, along with a 21-year-old man. Neither were arrested. The woman told police, “There is nothing in my house, you guys can check,” according to a police report. The officers handed the woman a form consenting to a search, which she signed, police said. Rodriguez signed the form as well, according to the report.

A search of the apartment also turned up a single .25-caliber bullet that police found uncder a radiator. Police also found a folder hidden under a mattress. They said the folder appeared to contain a document labeled “LOS 7 PUNTOS DE UN TRINITARIO,” according to the police report.

Police noted in their report that they believe Rodriguez is an active member of the Trinitario gang.

Police in Haverhill were notified April 7 at 5:49 p.m. of a shooting on Freeman Street, in the inner-city Mount Washington neighborhood. When officers arrived, they found a 19-year-old Haverhill man lying in the street and suffering from several gunshot wounds.

The victim, whose name is not being released by police, was taken to Lawrence General Hospital and later transferred to a Boston hospital. Police Detective Capt. Alan Ratte said on Monday that the man has been released from the hospital.

About the same time police were responding to the shooting, a black Honda Civic arrived at the police station with two people inside, a man and woman both from Haverhill, police said.

“The vehicle had its rear window shot out,” police Deputy Chief Donald Thompson said. “The couple entered the station and reported that their friend had been shot on Freeman Street.”

Thompson said the couple had driven the 19-year-old man to Freeman Street to pick up some belongings from an apartment in an apartment building there.

Witnesses told police several men were in the area at the time the man was shot, according to Thompson.

This is the second violent incident this year in Haverhill involving the Trinitario gang, police said.

In February, Haverhill police charged a 19-year-old Haverhill High School senior with stabbing two men with a machete after a dance party at a Hadley West Drive apartment erupted into a fight between two gangs. Witnesses told police some people received electric shocks from Tasers during the fight, while several were attacked by the man wielding the machete. Three other suspects were being sought in connection with the stabbings.

Police charged Joan Manuel Mendez-Sanchez, 19, of 52 Cedar St. with two counts of attempted murder and two counts of assault with a dangerous weapon. Police said Mendez-Sanchez surrendered after he learned police had a warrant for his arrest. According to police, witnesses said Mendez-Sanchez is a member of the Trinitario gang.

According to the Essex District Attorney’s Office, at a hearing on Feb. 26, Mendez-Sanchez was found to be a danger to society and ordered held without bail. He must appear in court May 29 for a probable cause hearing.