Mugshots of Walter Alexander Flores, left, and Julio Cesar Castro
Photo: Cobb County Sheriff's Office
Photo: Cobb County Sheriff's Office

Two Cobb MS-13 leaders among those indicted in alleged gang shooting

Seven people have been indicted as gang leaders or associates for allegedly shooting and injuring a group of children and adults in Cobb County.

Julio Cesar Castro, 21, and Walter Alexander Flores, 18, were listed in the Sept. 6 indictment as leaders of a local MS-13 crew.

Mara Salvatrucha is a street gang that recruits from middle and high schools, with an eye on El Salvadoran children and others from Central and South America, according to the FBI.

The gang has particularly caught the ire of President Donald Trump and his administration.

In this case from June 23, 2017, five associates along with Flores and Castro are accused of shooting at and injuring another group “that the MS-13 gang members had some prior incidents or problems with,” said Kim Isaza, spokeswoman for the Cobb district attorney’s office.

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One boy was shot in the abdomen multiple times and others were shot in the legs. In all, the warrant said, three were injured when shots were fired into a group of a dozen people.

Others indicted were: Melisa Zavaleta Bautista, 20; Cesar Lopez, 18; Gustavo Adolfo Lopez-Mendez, 22; Josue Hernandez-Perez, 18; and Alex Bautista, whom Isaza said Wednesday afternoon was still wanted.

Another suspect, Katherine Nohemy Cardenas, was indicted in April as part of the shooting and remains charged, Isaza said Thursday.

Prosecutors wouldn’t discuss motive, but arrest warrants give a patchwork view of what allegedly happened.

Mugshots, going clockwise starting at top left, of alleged MS-13 associates involving in a June 23, 2017 shooting in Marietta: Melisa Zavaleta Bautista, Cesar Lopez, Josue Hernandez-Perez and Gustavo Adolfo Lopez-Mendez. (Photos from Cobb County Sheriff's Office)
Photo: Cobb County Sheriff's Office

Both Bautistas allegedly drove the other gang members around that day.

Alex Bautista drove members from the Marietta Event Hall to the Cobb Center Shopping Center off South Cobb Drive to fight the group, according to a warrant.

Melisa Bautista, documents allege, drove others to Crescent Square Apartments, where the gang leaders and Lopez-Mendez all live in different units.

Castro drove Lopez-Mendez to get a gun, and then took him and others to the shopping center, prosecutors said. She waited in the parking lot and drove them away after the shooting.

Gang members enticed the opposing group to a wooded area behind the Chuck Camp Park soccer field to “assault” them, according to the indictment.

Lopez-Mendez shot into the group of a dozen people, records allege.

The month prior, Flores nonfatally shot a 15-year-old boy during a driveby shooting, according to police. The shooting came after several MS-13 members had fought a member of the Crips earlier that day

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According to a warrant for the June shooting, Flores sent threatening messages to one of the victims on Snapchat while the victim was in WellStar Kennestone Hospital. The warrant didn’t detail the threat, and, again, prosecutors declined to discuss the motive for the shooting.

After the shooting, investigators said, many of the suspects were seen in social media posts with a gun throwing up MS-13 hand signs.

In Cobb County, police say MS-13 members and associates have been connected to murders along with violent attacks and drugs.

More on MS-13:

A federal study said the gang’s name can possibly be traced to, of all things, ants and a 1954 Charlton Heston movie.

The movie was named “The Naked Jungle,” which was translated as “Cuando ruge la marabunta,” or “When the Ants Roar.” Marabunta was used in slang as mara, which eventually referred to swarming youths forming gangs, according to the study.

It goes on to say that “Salva” is supposedly a reference to El Salvador and “trucha” translates to “trout,” which is interpreted to represent cunning.

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Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) is notorious for violence and brutality. The gang's motto is “mata, viola, controla” or, kill, rape, control.

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