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Alleged MS-13 member released from jail despite ICE detainer, murdered days later

Eighteen-year-old Jose Herrera was arrested on Tuesday, Oct. 17, after two of the alleged gang members that were squatting inside the house held-up a Purple Line construction worker at gunpoint, police say. (Photo courtesy of Montgomery County Police Department)

MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Md. (ABC7) — An alleged MS-13 member would likely still be alive had Montgomery County officials followed a federal detainer lodged months ago, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) contends.

In October, Montgomery County Police charged Jose Herrera, 18, with trespassing and fourth-degree burglary. The charges came after officers located Herrera inside of a vacant home along University Boulevard East in Silver Spring with other suspected MS-13 members.

The Maryland Transit Administration had purchased the property to make way for the Purple Line light rail project. Yet prior to demolition, the gang had turned the two-story structure into a hideout with graffiti, a built-in bar and shrine to the “Saint of Death.”

Herrera, who was born in Honduras and came to the United States illegally, was issued a criminal summons. However, when he failed to appear for a scheduled court date, a judge issued a bench warrant on December 12.

According to court records, law enforcement officials arrested Herrera on December 22, for that outstanding warrant. That same day, Herrera posted a $100 bond and was released from custody. His freedom came despite a pending ICE detainer, which the federal agency says it first lodged back in October.

Then on December 24 — a mere two days after his release from jail — Herrera was gunned down in front of an apartment building at 1010 Quebec Terrace in Silver Spring. It was 6:30 p.m. when the gunfire erupted. Police found the 18-year-old not breathing with multiple gunshot wounds to the head.

At least one eyewitness told officers they saw two Hispanic males wearing all black clothing flee down a flight of concrete stairs in the direction of New Hampshire Avenue. Responding officers, including a K9 unit, did not locate any suspects. Now, days later, it's clear someone wanted the teenager dead, but the motive and killers remain big question marks for the Montgomery County Major Crimes Division.

According to a source familiar with the situation, Herrera had recently been expelled from high school and kicked out of his uncle's home in College Park. Those life changes drove the 18-year-old into homelessness and made him terribly vulnerable to gang recruitment. The same source, however, recalled Herrera not as a hardened gang member, but rather like a "sad beaten puppy” who even had trouble making eye contact.

Montgomery County has long argued that while it welcomes undocumented immigrants into the community, it is not a sanctuary county. ICE, however, has repeatedly shown specific examples of Montgomery County's lack of cooperation in surrendering undocumented individuals accused of criminal behavior — this being the latest case.

ABC7 contacted a spokesperson for Montgomery County government late Wednesday regarding ICE's most recent claims of obstruction. We will update this story if or when we receive an official response.

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