Ties That Bind: Prison gang, street gangs linked to violent murders

Ties That Bind: Prison gang, street gangs linked to violent murders

From the Las Vegas Optic

Editor’s note: The following is part two of a series exploring the role street gangs, prison gangs and organized crime play in violence, drug trafficking and addiction within Las Vegas and its surrounding communities.

Sweeping raids by federal law enforcement agencies in August of 2012 resulted in 14 Las Vegas homes being searched. By the end of the day, 25 people were arrested, including Jeromy “Joker” Vasquez and Jose Albert Herrera. Six years later, on the morning of Jan. 21, 2018, the paths of these two men would cross again, and result in a bloody end to Vasquez’s life.

The winter morning began with a car fire in front of Vasquez’s home on Don Fidel Street, just before sunrise. The fire was not an accident, according to authorities, but is believed to be the result of Vasquez owing someone money for drugs, according to affidavits filed in U.S. District Court.

Vasquez was a member of the Syndicato de Nuevo Mexico, a violent prison gang, according to federal authorities. So too was John F. Salazar, aka “Stoner,” a witness to the shooting.

Following the car fire, Vasquez and Salazar drove to Herrera’s home on New Mexico Avenue. Vasquez believed it was Herrera who’d set the fire, and he confronted Herrera armed with a .40-caliber handgun, according to Las Vegas Police Department incident reports. Both Herrera and Vasquez were shot during the confrontation. Thirty-six-year-old Vasquez died in the street.

A brief moment of peace
Following Vasquez’s death, the public received few details about the shooting. Because of an ongoing federal investigation, many court records were sealed and unavailable to the public or the press.

Herrera was treated at Alta Vista Regional Hospital and later flown to the University of New Mexico Hospital in Albuquerque. By 2020, the shooting was ruled self-defense. Las Vegas, it seemed, had returned to normal, and for more than a year, the town did not experience violence at the level of that January 2018 morning.