A cold-blooded murder by a violent gang Latin member who previously served time in a U.S. prison, was caught on camera in a parking structure in Miami, FL. The accused murderer, 29-year-old David Paneque, was supposed to be deported two years ago, but the U.S. hasn’t been able to deport him back to Cuba, because the Cuban government doesn’t want him back.
Tampa Bay Times – What the Cuban gang member did not know was that a restaurant owner in the strip mall had quietly installed a video surveillance system atop the garage to monitor his car after it’d been vandalized. From just feet away, the video captured Paneque pulling out his gun, hiding it from 31-year-old Leandro Lopez for a few moments before suddenly thrusting it into his face.
In the video without sound, Lopez begged for mercy. Paneque seemed to relent, appearing to hug the man before coolly gunning him down, taking something from his body and driving off.
***WARNING***Video is very graphic
Brutal video evidence aside, it might rank as a typical South Florida murder except for the accused gunman, David Paneque, was supposed to have been deported nearly two years ago. But immigration authorities had to release him to the streets.
The reason: Paneque is Cuban. Even under renewed diplomatic relations established under former President Barack Obama, the island accepts back relatively few of its criminal citizens. Deportations to Cuba have risen under the aggressive policies pursued by President Donald Trump but still number only in the hundreds.
“Where are they going to send me? Cuba doesn’t want me,” Paneque joked during questioning by Miami-Dade police just before his latest arrest. “They don’t want me here. They don’t want me there.”
The Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office on Wednesday formally charged Paneque, 29, with the murder of Leandro Lopez. Police say the motive of the murder remains unclear.
Paneque, who remains jailed while awaiting trial, pleaded not guilty. His attorney declined to comment.
Former Miami U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, who last year introduced an immigration reform bill that failed, said his proposal would have addressed dangerous felons like Paneque, allowing for their indefinite detention if they could not be deported.
“This illustrates a major flaw in our immigration laws. Even though this individual is an undocumented immigrant with a history of violent crime, by law, he had to be released,” said Curbelo, a Republican who lost his seat to Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell.
Paneque was 17 when he was first arrested for a violent crime.
According to police, he robbed a man at knifepoint outside a West Kendall restaurant in November 2007. During the “violent struggle,” the man was stabbed multiple times and airlifted to a hospital trauma center, according to an arrest report. Paneque, whose listed street name at the time was “Psycho,” was later caught trying to cash the man’s checks. At the time, he was also on probation on a conviction for carrying a concealed weapon.
ICE described him as a “Cuban national and leader of a Sur-13 Clicque” who was “amenable for removal based on a criminal convictions.”
Sur-13, or Sureños, is a national network of loosely affiliated gangs with ties to the Mexican Mafia prison organization. The group started in California, and offshoots have popped up across the country. The gang is distinct from MS-13, or Mara Salvatrucha, a gang with Central American roots that has been called out by Trump as a grave national security threat. A Miami-Dade homicide detective, however, listed his tattoo as “MS13” in an arrest report.
In the mid-2000s, Sur-13 affiliates sprang up in rural Florida and in Palm Beach County. Sur-13 members are generally of Mexican or Central American descent. Gang experts say it’s rare for a Cuban American like Paneque to join.
Paneque began working as an electrician, moved into an apartment on Miami’s Upper Eastside and fathered a child, Paneque later told police. His only goals, he claimed, were to chase women and make money. Paneque also got a medical marijuana card for post-traumatic stress he claimed he suffered in prison.
He was released back to Miami under an “order of supervision.” Under U.S. law, only in rare exceptions can immigrants with deportation orders be held indefinitely if there is no likelihood of their removal from the country.
Paneque is not alone.
More than 37,000 Cubans in the United States are facing orders of removal for convictions of crimes or immigration violations. Most of those are living freely under orders of supervision, which require them to check in at least once a year.
Cubans were rarely ever deported in the years before diplomatic relations resumed in 2015 under Obama. Even now, the country is considered “recalcitrant” and will not accept back most of its nationals.
But it’s up to the Cuban government to accept back people like Paneque, said Juan Carlos Gomez, director of the Carlos A. Costa Immigration & Rights Clinic at Florida International University.
“They’re stuck. There is no mechanism to return him. There is no treaty between the two countries,” Gomez said.
The less-than-500 Cubans sent back last year remains a “small drop” in the pool of more than 30,000 with criminal convictions with deportation orders, said Jessica Vaughn, director of policy studies for the Center for Immigration, a Washington, D.C., think tank that favors limited immigration.
One option, she said, was for the United States to threaten to limit the number of legal Cuban immigrants unless the Communist island begins to accept more deportees. “There are steps the Trump administration could take to prevent the situation from getting worse,” Vaughn said.