The Trinitarios street gang proclaims the Dominican Republic’s motto of “Dios, Patria y Libertad” — God, Fatherland and Liberty — as its own.
The irony seems lost on a crew known for its decidedly unholy bloodlust ever since it formed at a New York City jail in the late ’80s or early ’90s.
What started as a protective band of Dominican inmates at Rikers Island quickly stretched beyond its walls, with the Trinitarios gaining footholds in the Bronx and upper Manhattan. In the nearly three decades since, they have built a multinational empire on a foundation of drug dealing and human trafficking, establishing themselves as one of the fastest-growing gangs in the city.
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That expansion — their ranks are believed to number in the hundreds across the city, and thousands worldwide — left behind a trail of bodies from infighting among subsets and clashes with their fiercest rivals, Dominicans Don’t Play, or DDP.
“Decency and humanity isn’t in their DNA, only killing,” said Camila Garcia, 27, a mom of two young kids who lives near St. James Park in the Bronx, a hotbed for Trinitarios activity. “They’re just as bad as terrorists.”
The collateral damage of the gangs’ often haphazard and sloppy brand of violence has at times spilled over to include innocents — most recently an aspiring-NYPD-cop teen butchered in a case of mistaken identity.
“[The Trinitarios are] definitely getting big,” said one high-ranking police source, who has personally arrested at least a dozen of their members in the Bronx. “The NYPD ought to start paying a lot more attention to them.”
Before anyone ever donned the Trinitarios’ red-white-blue-and-green gang hues — an homage to the Dominican flag, plus the green to differentiate from DDP’s black — co-founder Leonides “Junito” Sierra had blood on his hands.
Sierra was behind bars on Rikers Island on a 1989 murder conviction when he and a handful of fellow Dominican inmates formed the Trinitarios to protect each other from attacks by rival cliques, including the Bloods, Crips and Latin Kings.
The co-founders of the Trinitarios — which translates loosely to the Trinity Brotherhood — styled themselves after a trio of revolutionaries who helped liberate the Dominican Republic from Haitian rule in the 1840s: Juan Pablo Duarte, Matías Ramón Mella and Francisco del Rosario Sánchez.
Sierra remains in prison to this day, sentenced in 2014 to another 19 years for leading the Trinitarios from his cell at the upstate Attica Correctional Facility — including ordering murders — but the gang hit the streets of New York long ago.