A college student is killed by gang violence.
Juan Gil Ferrufino, Mario Portillo and German DeLeon
For Pam Corrente of Freeport, New York, it was just another day of running errands. Then, as she was driving her teenage son to the doctor, she passed what appeared to be a terrible car accident:
“I said to my son, ‘Look over there and see what’s going on.’ So he just looked over and said, ‘I don’t see anything, you can’t see anything, there’s just ambulances all over.’ So I passed it. I took him to the doctor’s office. We came back home.”
Pam drove by the scene of the crime
It was then that Pam received a phone call about her oldest son, 21-year-old Damian:
“And I got a phone call from one of his friends, asking me, ‘Is Damian there?’ I said, ‘No he’s not, he was going to go out and see his friends. Aren’t you with him?’ The caller said, ‘No. Okay, never mind.’ And they hung up. And that was just, the whole thing was odd.”
When Damian didn’t answer her calls, Pam remembered the ambulances and decided to check local hospitals:
“I called South Nassau Hospital and said, ‘Do you have a Damian Corrente there?” They said, ‘Yes, who is this?’ I said, ‘This is his mom.’ I said, ‘Is he there? Is he okay? Why didn’t anybody call me? Why aren’t you, why wasn’t I informed? What’s going on? Just tell me what’s going on?’ And she said, ‘Didn’t the detective come to your house yet?’”
Within minutes, Pam was at the hospital. Her son, Damian, had been involved in the incident she saw earlier. But it was no traffic accident:
Pam became an activist against gang violence
“My son was there on the bed, and he was in a hospital gown, and he looked like a complete angel. And I went to hug him, and I got blood on my hand. When they told me he was shot five times in the head, I couldn’t comprehend it. Everything went crazy at that point.”
Damiano Corrente is Damian’s father:
“I saw my wife crying on the other side of the door with a nurse. I said to her, ‘What’s the matter? She said, “He’s dead.” Just like that. Something died in me that day too.”
Pam and Damiano learned that their son had died in a gang shooting. There were allegations that Damian himself was a gang member. Pamela Corrente said that was not possible:
“Damian was a pre-med student at Stony Brook University. He had an ambition, and that was to go to college and get his degree and become an anesthesiologist. My son had absolutely no gang affiliation. That was proven over and over. It was written in every newspaper. He was absolutely not a part of a gang and had no gang affiliation.”
Pam still hopes to find her son’s killers
In the weeks leading up to his death, Damian had returned home from college for winter break and started hanging out with his friends from high school. Det. Brian N. Parpan of the Nassau County Police Department:
“One of those friends was a man by the name of Harold Zambrano. Harold was a 19-year-old member of a local gang called Nientes.”
Harold told Damian that two days earlier, he was jumped by members of MS-13, a violent El Salvadoran street gang originally from Los Angeles. Harold asked Damian for help. Pamela said her son had a hard time saying no:
“Damian had the biggest heart in the world. It was part of his problem. If anybody asked him for anything, he would do it, and he would be there, even if he had his own plans.”
Chief Michael Woodward of the Freeport Police Department suspects that Damian’s naiveté led to his death:
“Damian Corrente, on the day that he died, I’m sure had no idea as to what he was getting involved in. Harold Zambrano, being a gang member, probably never publicized that fact to Damian.”
According to Det. Parpan, Harold and Damian found who they were looking for at a local strip mal: 19-year-old German DeLeon:
“German DeLeon is a known MS-13 member and was wearing the colors, so there was no question in their mind that they had found somebody. They approached German DeLeon. They confronted him with the injury to Harold Zambrano. DeLeon was there at the Laundromat with his girlfriend. DeLeon admitted that he was an MS-13 member and told him that he had nothing to do with that particular incident. Zambrano and those guys indicated that they respected the fact that he was with his girlfriend and they wouldn’t cause him any trouble while he was with his girlfriend.”
Damian, Harold and the others returned to their car. Then, two more members of the MS-13 gang showed up starting firing. Zambrano was shot in the neck. Damian was shot five times in the head.
A police investigation quickly revealed the identity of the alleged shooters: German DeLeon, Mario Portillo, and Juan Gil Ferrufino. But the suspects could not be found.
To help deal with her grief, Pam started a gang awareness program in Freeport:
“I had no choice. I had to fight. It was either that or go crazy with the rage, and the anger, and the hate. So I can’t do that. But I can fight back by trying to educate our children, and trying to find a way for them, and to educate the parents to educate the children.”
Pam finds her new work rewarding, though it will never take away the pain of losing her son. There is only one thing that would help: catching the killers of Damian Corrente.
Although the families of all three suspects still live in Freeport, police have traced German DeLeon, Mario Portillo and Juan Gil Ferrufino to El Salvador. If their specific whereabouts can be determined, the suspects could be extradited to the United States for trial.
Watch this case now on Amazon Prime in season eleven with Robert Stack and in season five with Dennis Farina. Also available on YouTube with Dennis Farina. Various seasons available now on Hulu.
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