By Sarah Esther Maslin—Vice—May 23, 2017—
For months, they had been threatening Kayla Cuevas. One flashed a knife at her in the hallway of Brentwood Ross High School; others taunted her in the streets of their working-class Long Island town. A talented basketball player from a Puerto Rican family, Cuevas wanted to be a police officer, but lately she’d been getting suspended for fighting with a Salvadoran gang called the Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13.
Cuevas’s Facebook profile shows a 16-year-old caught between childhood and adulthood: a girl crouching by a Christmas tree with her hands in prayer; the same hands throwing gang signs amid a cloud of marijuana smoke. On Tuesday, September 13, 2016, Cuevas and her friend Nisa Mickens were walking in their neighborhood when four MS-13 members jumped out of a car and started beating them with baseball bats and machetes. Mickens’s lifeless body was found that night in the street beside an elementary school. Cuevas’s was recovered the next day behind a nearby house.