Gang Leader Shot to Death on Road to Reform

Ernesto Miranda, aka Smokey, pictured in 2005 with his daughter Maybelline i i

hide captionErnesto Miranda, aka "Smokey," pictured in 2004 with his daughter Maybelline in front of his home outside San Salvador.

Mandalit del Barco, NPR
Ernesto Miranda, aka Smokey, pictured in 2005 with his daughter Maybelline

Ernesto Miranda, aka "Smokey," pictured in 2004 with his daughter Maybelline in front of his home outside San Salvador.

Mandalit del Barco, NPR

Ernesto Miranda, aka "Smokey," was an original member of the infamous Mara Salvatrucha street gang — also known as the MS-13 — created on the streets of Los Angeles and later exported to Central America.

A former soldier in El Salvador's long and bloody civil war, Miranda fled to Los Angeles, hoping to escape the violence. But he found plenty more in the streets of L.A.'s Pico Union neighborhood, where he banded together with other young Salvadoran immigrants to form what would become one of the city's most notorious gangs.

As part of a crackdown on the MS-13 gang, Miranda was deported back to El Salvador, and there he seemed to turn his life around. At 38, he was a doting father, studying law, working to keep kids out of gangs and advocating for greater human rights for prisoners.

All that ended Saturday night, when he was shot to death in the doorway of his home in a village outside San Salvador just hours after turning down an invitation to celebrate the prison release of an MS-13 gang member.

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