For Immediate Release
Contact: Michelle Bays
775.321.4307 (o); 775.771.6049 (c)
October 18, 2017
Washoe County District Attorney Chris Hicks has announced that a murder trial that began two weeks ago has resulted in a conviction on two counts of 1st degree murder. Following the jury’s finding of guilt last Friday, the same jury sentenced the defendant to two terms of life in prison without the possibility of parole late Monday evening.
Luis Alejandro Menendez-Cordero, 26 (dob12/23/90), known as “Apo,” a documented Mara Salvatrucha (MS) 13 gang member, was found guilty of having shot and killed two Sparks men on November 20, 2010. On that date, the Sparks Police Department (SPD) responded to a report of a shooting at 1000 El Rancho #A5. When officers arrived they located two victims, Moises Vazquez, 21 and Kevin Melendez, 19. Melendez was shot twice in the back and Vazquez was shot below the right eye. Both victims received life saving measures at the scene and were transported to Renown hospital where they eventually succumbed to their injuries. SPD Detectives located witnesses who were able to describe the shooting and identify the suspect, know to them as “Apo.” Detectives determined there was a small gathering at the apartment that included the residents and acquaintances of theirs. Menendez-Cordero and another man were also at the party and were known to the apartment residents. At one point in the evening, Menendez-Cordero and his associate leave to smoke a cigarette. A short time later, Menendez-Cordero returns alone, armed with a handgun. He quickly walks into the apartment and shoots the two victims at close range. Menendez-Cordero also attempts to fire his gun at a third victim, but the gun malfunctions and he flees. During the investigation, SPD detectives work with the Reno Police Department’s Regional Gang Unit to identify the suspect and are able to determine he has connections to California and El Salvador. Menendez-Cordero is tracked to Sacramento and eventually Los Angeles. However, he ultimately escapes to El Salvador with the aid of other MS13 gang members.
After significant efforts by the Sparks Police Department and this office, Menendez-Cordero is ultimately arrested in El Salvador in March, 2015, with the assistance of the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and the United States Marshals Service. Prior to his arrest, this office worked with the FBI to obtain a provisional arrest warrant and complete the lengthy extradition process to bring Menendez-Cordero to Washoe County to stand trial. Extraditions from El Salvador to the United States have only recently begun to take place and remain rare.
During trial, Chief Deputy District Attorney Kelly Kossow and Deputy District Attorney Zelalem Bogale presented evidence that unmistakably identified Menendez-Cordero as the shooter and detailed the chaotic scene. The jury heard how the defendant left the apartment, came back inside a short time later, and began shooting from close range at the two victims who were seated at a table playing cards with friends. Prosecutors argued that after the shooting, Menendez-Cordero received a tattoo consisting of devil horns and the letters “M” and “S,” on his forehead, to demonstrate pride for his gang in the killing of the two men. They also argued that the shootings appeared to be motivated by a perceived disrespectful comment regarding MS-13 made by one of the two men who was killed. Ultimately, the jury deliberated approximately 3 hours before returning a verdict of guilty last Friday afternoon.
Statement from Washoe County District Attorney Chris Hicks
“This case highlights the stalwart collaboration that exists amongst law enforcement in our community. Throughout the prosecution and investigation of this case, a number of agencies made significant contributions that brought this dangerous defendant to justice. The Sparks Police Department quickly identified Menendez-Cordero and thoroughly investigated the case. In addition, their efforts to track and apprehend him were greatly assisted by the FBI. Both the FBI and the U.S. Marshals Service were also instrumental in working with the El Salvadorian Government to arrest and extradite Menendez-Cordero. The Reno Police Department’s Regional Gang Unit provided much needed intelligence on MS13 gang activities and assistance with locating witnesses. The Washoe County Sheriff’s Office assisted with trial security measures when jail calls placed by the defendant containing threats to witnesses were intercepted. The Department of Homeland Security and the Transportation and Security Administration assisted with witness transportation.
Also, the testimony of several courageous witnesses who bravely came forward in this case deserves recognition. Finally, our jury deserves acknowledgement as well. As the pulse of our community, their swift verdicts and life without the possibility of parole sentences sends a strong message.”
Statement from the Federal Bureau of Investigation
"The violence that often explodes between gang members not only affects the criminals involved in this sinister lifestyle, but blameless people living in the neighborhoods in which they operate. The apprehension, extradition, and conviction of this violent gang member demonstrates the commitment of the FBI, Salvadoran law enforcement, and our law enforcement partners and prosecutors to ensure all criminals who victimize our communities face justice, even when they believe they can avoid prosecution by fleeing to perceived safety in a foreign country," said Special Agent in Charge Aaron C. Rouse of the FBI Las Vegas Division.
Statement from Sparks Police Department
“The Sparks Police want to thank all those involved in this case from the onset, through the investigation to the conclusion. This case illustrates the tireless commitment of the Sparks Police to our community and victims of crime. Our hearts go out to the victim’s family. We are committed to putting all victims first. Cases like this affect many people, including those in the Sparks community. The Sparks Police are very pleased with the outcome of this case. We appreciate the community support and patience during this lengthy investigation and final resolution” said PIO Ken Gallop of the Sparks Police Department.