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Indictment alleges man shot teenager to gain gang status

LAWRENCEVILLE - On the evening of Aug. 21, Walter Aldana reportedly strolled up to a group of 30 teens at a pick-up basketball game in a Duluth cul-de-sac, asked them what gang "set" they claimed, and when the befuddled teens failed to reply, he started shooting.

Most mistook the handgun, a silver .22 caliber, for a toy, until a 14-year-old Duluth boy was struck in the back. Then everybody bolted.

Prosecutors said Aldana's motive for the random shooting was to climb the hierarchy of MS-13, a Latino gang regarded by experts as the most violent faction in Gwinnett.

Two weeks after the shooting, investigators tracked down Aldana, of Norcross, and an alleged cohort, Irvin Antonio Mejia, of Duluth, who reportedly provided the gun and "told him he had to do it," according to arrest warrants.

A Gwinnett grand jury indicted both teens this week for illegal gang activity. Aldana faces two additional counts of aggravated assault for pulling the trigger "to increase his position or status" in MS-13, the indictment says.

The victim was treated at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite and later recovered.

The MS-13 gang - an acronym for "Mara Salvatrucha 13," or "El Salvadorian Gang" - is characterized by mostly Latino members who wear jerseys stitched with the number 13.

Aldana and Mejia, both 18, are of El Salvadorian descent, jail records show.

Both suspects remain at the Gwinnett County Jail without bond. Their arraignment hearings, at which they could enter a plea, are expected within a month.