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Police Cite Gang Affiliation in Assault

Saul Martinez Benitez, 19, was arrested and charged with malicious wounding and gang participation.

A member of the street gang Mara Salvatrucha 13 has been arrested and will stand trial next week for cutting a man's arm with a box cutter in early May, according to police.

Saul Martinez Benitez, 19, of 665 Dulles Park Ct., was arrested by Herndon police last month and charged with malicious wounding and gang participation.

On May 2, Benitez allegedly cut his neighbor's arm deeply with a green handled box cutter during a late night argument outside their apartment complex, according to court documents.

Benitez and two friends had been drinking beer in his second floor apartment, when they saw the victim and two of his friends exit a car outside. They threw two beer bottles at the car while yelling "MS-13" and flashing gang hand signals. Benitez then went outside to confront the victim and his friends, according to court documents.

Benitez told the victim he was a member of MS-13, an El Salvadorian gang, and that his nickname was "El Chuky."

The victim asked Benitez why he had thrown beer bottles at the car and Benitez allegedly responded by slicing open the victim's left arm with the box cutter.

Benitez is being held at the Fairfax County jail without bond and is scheduled to stand trial for the attack next Wednesday in Fairfax County Circuit Court, said Lt. Tony Shoub of the Fairfax County Sheriff's Office.

If convicted, Benitez would face at least 20 years in prison for the two felonies. Also, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has filed to have him deported once his sentence is complete, should he be convicted.

LAST WEEK, Herndon Police Detective Claudio Saa, a member of the Northern Virginia Regional Gang Task Force, executed a search warrant of Benitez's apartment at the Dulles Park complex.

Saa said in the search warrant that he was searching for the box cutter, clothing with blood on it, a light-blue jersey witnesses said Benitez allegedly wore the night of the attack, and any evidence of gang affiliation.

According to court documents, he confiscated four shirts, several photographs and assorted papers from Benitez's apartment.

Though the Herndon Police Department does not release information about specific gangs, it does keep data on overall gang activity. Since Jan. 1, there have been 31 incidents in Herndon classified as "gang-related," said Sgt. Jerry Keys, the Herndon Police Department spokesman.

Those incidents include the Dulles Park Court malicious wounding, gang graffiti, assaults and a shooting in May that left one teenager dead and another wounded.

Following the murder of Jose Sandoval, a 17-year-old Herndon High School freshman, Gov. Mark Warner announced on the steps of the Municipal Building that he was expanding anti-gang efforts throughout the region. U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf also announced he would secure an additional $500,000 to fight gangs following the homicide.