By Anna Pulley
By Erin Sherbert
By Chris Roberts
By Erin Sherbert
By Rachel Swan
By Joe Eskenazi
By Erin Sherbert
By Erin Sherbert
In its request for Reyes' Metro PCS phone records, the SFPD wrote, "A triple murder occurred. ... A second suspect, still at large, may be the owner of the target phone number and is considered armed and very dangerous to the community."
Five days after the murders, search warrants for Reyes were ready. Officers busted into his Burlingame apartment and his girlfriend's house in the Mission. But by then Reyes had vanished.
Denise was pissed that David's friends were marking up her walls with a Sharpie. "MS-13," one of them wrote. It was an August 2009 night and people were kicking back at her house in Duncan, S.C., drinking and smoking, having a good time.
She didn't know the guys with the Sharpie very well, but she did know David. They had met at Club Bongo a year before and eventually grew close. She'd seen his mom and his sister a few times. His family had transplanted from Guatemala to South Carolina some years earlier.
David was a private person, but opened up to Denise more than most. He showed her his tattoos, explained that the devil horns on his back were for the gang he used to be in and that La Bestia would protect him. He liked watching documentaries about MS-13 On Demand.
Those shows would describe how Salvadorans had banded together for protection against the powerful Hispanic gangs that controlled L.A.'s barrios in the 1980s. MS-13 is an acronym for Mara Salvatrucha. "Mara" alludes to a type of fire ant and is the Spanish slang for "gang," and "Salvatrucha" stems from the Spanish word for "trusted" or "loyal." MS eventually adopted the "13" — which corresponds to the letter M — when the group formed an allegiance with the Mexican Mafia prison gang, La Eme. MS-13 has spread across 33 states and almost every country in North and Central America, as deported members brought the culture back to their homelands. By FBI estimates, the organization has up to 10,000 members in the U.S. and 40,000 more abroad.
David told Denise all that was behind him. She suspected he had some trouble in his past. He would nervously peek through the closed blinds of his house, as if he were expecting an unwanted visitor. He wore a beaded necklace that he said was meant to keep away the police.
She'd often see him reading online news articles. One day, he decided to tell her what they were about. He pointed to a name on the screen, "Wilfredo 'Flaco' Reyes" — "Yeah, that's me," he said; he didn't like when people called him "Wilfredo." He confessed to her, she would recall in testimony three years later, that he was a passenger in a drive-by shooting in California, and that's why he moved to South Carolina.
Given all the disclosures, Denise felt a degree of trust in David. So, on that August night, she was mildly surprised when his friends took off with her car, and David told her not to call the police. The two of them left the house in search of the car. They didn't find it, but they did find one of the culprits walking in front of David's duplex in Greenville, 20 miles southwest of Duncan.
With the car still missing, Denise called the police. Patrolmen found the vehicle, totaled, not far from David's place. Within days Duncan police arrested the suspects. One of them was Elgado Medrano, the MS-13 member from San Francisco who had been with Marvin Medina at the shooting near Cesar Chavez Street.
During the investigation, Duncan Police Officer Bryan Teal dropped by Medrano's residence to interview his roommate, the man who said his name was David.
The camera in Teal's patrol car captured the interaction. Teal asked David to show him ID.
"If you're name's David, why does your ID say your name is Samuel Carrillo?" Teal asked.
David mumbled something about a nickname. He was polite and deferential. Teal confiscated the ID, convinced it was a fake.
"I see you got some tattoos there," Teal remarked, noticing the "213" on David's right forearm and the cursive "Mareros" on his left.
Though Teal had no probable cause to suspect David had committed a crime, the officer pulled out a camera, began snapping photos, then asked David to lift up his loose white T-shirt. David complied, revealing the devil horns and "MS" that spanned the width of his upper back. MS-13 hadn't had much of an active criminal presence in the region, so Teal wasn't familiar with the meaning of the tattoos. And he didn't know he was standing next to "a second suspect" in a triple homicide whom SFPD had called "armed and very dangerous to the community."
To San Francisco police, Reyes could have been anywhere. Inspectors certainly hadn't forgotten about him by August 2009. They regularly entered his name into database queries. They contacted authorities in Miami. In spring 2010 they would trek down to L.A. to talk to his brother. And more homicides piled onto the department's docket.
Reyes wasn't the only fugitive from the Ramos investigation. Medrano was a wanted man, too. During Ramos' preliminary hearing in early 2009, prosecutors had subpoenaed Medrano for a perjury case against Medina, who had claimed under oath that he was never an MS-13 affiliate, despite the "MS" tattoo on his back.