WASHINGTON (AP) — A New York police detective who relentlessly investigated killings committed by MS-13 gang members before succumbing to cancer last year became the first law enforcement officer on Tuesday to posthumously receive a distinguished service award from the U.S. attorney general.
Attorney General William Barr presented the award to the family of Suffolk County police Detective William Maldonado, who died in April 2018 after a three-year battle with colon cancer. He was one of 19 law enforcement officers from across the U.S. who were recognized with the Attorney General’s Award for Distinguished Service in Policing during a ceremony at the Justice Department’s headquarters in Washington.
Maldonado had worked on the FBI’s Long Island Gang Task Force, where he was involved in prosecutions of more than 40 MS-13 members, solving more than a dozen homicides and 25 robberies. The brutal MS-13 street gang, also known as Mara Salvatrucha, is blamed for dozens of killings on Long Island since 2016 across a wide swath of Long Island.
The violence, including the 2016 slayings of two teenage girls in Brentwood, helped spark an aggressive effort by the FBI and the Justice Department to dismantle the gang, which the U.S. considers one of the top transnational organized crime threats. President Donald Trump, who visited Long Island in July 2017 to address the gang problem, has blamed the violence and gang growth on lax immigration policies.
Maldonado was first assigned to assist with investigating a young man’s disappearance and helped gather intelligence to suggest he was actually the victim of an MS-13 killing, Barr said. Maldonado and fellow detectives worked aggressively to arrest dozens of people in connection with 17 killings on Long Island and, despite having cancer, he rarely missed work, the attorney general said.
“Detective Maldonado was able to help his team end the killings and bring the perpetrators to justice and deal a crippling blow to MS-13’s influence in Suffolk County,” Barr said. “As if those actions were not heroic enough, Detective Maldonado remained laser focused and dedicated to his duty despite an ongoing battle against cancer.”
Maldonado joined the Suffolk County Police Department in 1987 and was promoted to detective in 1994. His mother, his wife and his two daughters accepted the award from Barr on Maldonado’s behalf.
Other law enforcement officials who received the distinguished service awards on Tuesday were recognized for their involvement in major investigations, including a kidnapping, an active shooter response, an abduction and sexual abuse case, and a large-scale fraud scheme.