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Migrant Accused Of Shooting NYPD Officers Reveals Gang Connections, Weapon Smuggling In NYC Shelters

James King, MPA
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A Venezuelan migrant accused of shooting two NYPD officers revealed during his arraignment how weapons are being smuggled into New York City shelters. Bernardo Raul Castro Mata, 19, admitted his affiliation with the notorious Venezuelan gang Tren de Aragua while appearing in Queens County Criminal Court on Wednesday.

Mata, who entered the U.S. in 2023, was in a wheelchair with his arm cuffed to it as he faced charges of attempted murder for the shooting of Officers Richard Yarusso and Christopher Abreu earlier this month. The officers were shot as they attempted to arrest Mata, who was riding a scooter against traffic in East Elmhurst. Despite being injured, both officers were treated and released from the hospital.

Prosecutors shared audio recordings in which Mata explained that Tren de Aragua members smuggle firearms into city shelters by hiding them in food delivery packages to bypass metal detectors. Mata stated, “Tren de Aragua members are smuggling firearms into city shelters inside food delivery packages, that way they don’t have to go through metal detectors.”

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Mata also disclosed that shooting at police officers is common practice among his gang because Venezuelan police frequently shoot at gang members for minor infractions. He explained, “Venezuelan police officers get shot often in my home country because criminals feel there is a chance of getting away.”

Mata pleaded not guilty and faces up to 40 years in prison if convicted. Patrick Hendry, president of the Police Benevolent Association of the City of New York, emphasized the severity of the crime, stating, “This dangerous individual wasn’t afraid to shoot a New York City police officer because he thought he was going to get away with it. Not in this country.”

Hendry called for strong legal action against those who attack law enforcement officers, adding, “Anyone who attacks a police officer needs to be prosecuted, sentenced, and then deported.”

The incident comes amid a significant rise in crime in New York City, with robberies and grand larcenies increasing by 300% over the past year. The city’s sanctuary policies have led to an influx of illegal migrants, further complicating the challenges faced by law enforcement.

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