Illegal immigrant who shot cops in NYC says he was recruited by Venezuelan robbery gang: report

A tattoo on his arm of a clock tied to an anchor gave credence to that claim, as did social media posts uncovered by investigators.

Jarryd Jaeger Vancouver, BC

It has been revealed that the 19-year-old illegal immigrant who shot two cops in New York City earlier this week allegedly told police that he had been recruited into a crime ring operated by the notorious Tren de Aragua gang. The Venezuelan criminal organization has taken advantage of the crisis at the southern border to spread its tentacles across the United States, and its members have been tied to numerous violent incidents, including the murder of Laken Riley. 

According to the New York Post, law enforcement sources said Bernardo Castro Mata admitted that a Tren de Aragua "coordinator" had convinced him to join a gang of moped-riding thieves who commit "snatch and grab" robberies across the city. He is suspected of having been involved in a number of such crimes. He currently faces two counts of attempted murder, among other charges, in connection with the shooting. 

The Venezuelan teen claimed that upon entering the country unlawfully and being released from custody in July 2023, he was pressured to get tattoos professing his allegiance to the gang. Sources told the Post that a tattoo on his arm of a clock tied to an anchor gave credence to that claim, as did social media posts uncovered by investigators. 

He moved to New York after an immigration court in Chicago set him free without granting or denying asylum. As a result of the court's decision, he was under no obligation to leave the country, however he could not apply for benefits or a work permit.  

On Wednesday, Castro was arraigned virtually from his hospital bed in Queens, where he is recovering from being shot in the ankle. One of the two officers he opened fire on with the illegally obtained firearm was wearing a bullet-proof vest and suffered only a graze wound, while the other was struck in the leg and rushed to hospital. 

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