Activists make plea for peace outside hearing in double-murder case

A judge may soon decide whether four MS-13 street-gang members accused of murdering two Brentwood teenage girls should face the death penalty.

It comes as members of the community that's been gripped by gang violence make a plea for peace. Community activists gathered outside the federal courthouse in Central Islip Monday as a hearing took place in the case of the four accused gang members.

A federal judge called Monday for arguments from both the prosecution and the defense on why the four gang members should or should not face the death penalty.

But instead of calling for the death penalty, activists say they are calling for peace and change. Instead of focusing on locking up gang members, they say they want to see more programs to prevent gang violence.

Feride Castillo, director of Advocacy for Empowerment Collaborative of Long Island, says intervention with education are tools to help prevent gang violence.

"If we don't step up as a community and do more and be united and raise our kids once again, we are going to lose more children," Castillo says.

Police say they're doing their part to counter gang violence, but the commissioner agreed that the community must do more.

"Until we come together as a community, as a school district, and present evidence-based gang prevention programs in a very robust way, we are not going to make the progress we need," says Police Commissioner Timothy Sini.

All four defendants in the slayings of the two teens have pleaded not guilty to murder charges and are being held without bail. The next court hearing in the case will be in mid-July.

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