Illegal Venezuelan Migrant Who Shot Cops Reveals Ties to Crime Org

Police officer in bulletproof vest outdoors, back view

Bernardo Raul Castro Mata, 19, who is suspected of killing two New York police officers, informed authorities that a member of the international criminal organization Tren de Aragua recruited him.

On Monday, following a confrontation with NYPD officers that saw Officers Richard Yarusso and Christopher Abreu shot and injured, Castro Mata was apprehended by the NYPD. He was arrested from a Queens hospital bed on 17 charges, including two counts of attempted murder for allegedly opening fire at the two NYPD officers. The Venezuelan, who was also injured in the gunfight, may face 80 years to life in prison.

Castro Mata allegedly told New York police that a “coordinator” from the transnational criminal organization Tren de Aragua recruited him to join a gang of “snatch and grab” moped thieves and “encouraged” him to obtain a tattoo symbolizing his loyalty to the group– a clock connected to an anchor.

The New York Police Department has stated that Castro Mata entered the country illegally in July 2023 via Eagle Pass, Texas. Prior to Monday’s shooting, he allegedly assaulted a woman, stole her credit card, and used it at a Queens smoke shop. He was also accused of stealing a woman’s phone.

A federal immigration court allegedly dropped Castro Mata’s deportation case less than one month before the gunfight. He was not awarded asylum in the US; he was also no longer supervised by ICE and was not a priority for deportation.

The international criminal organization known as Tren de Aragua originated in 2012 as a local trade union gang in the state of Aragua in Venezuela. Since then, its illegal operations have expanded to other states in the US and Latin American countries. The gang’s purported ability to grow its criminal operations to its present multinational prominence is said to have been enabled by its links to Venezuela’s socialist state. It is thought that the Tren de Aragua is involved in a wide variety of criminal activities, including drug, human, and weapon trafficking, as well as kidnapping, extortion, murder, and contraband.