I-Team: Local expert discusses gang culture - News, Weather and Classifieds for Southern New England

I-Team: Local expert discusses gang culture

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Former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez stands during a bail hearing in Fall River Superior Court Thursday, June 27, 2013. (AP Photo/Boston Herald, Ted Fitzgerald, Pool) Former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez stands during a bail hearing in Fall River Superior Court Thursday, June 27, 2013. (AP Photo/Boston Herald, Ted Fitzgerald, Pool)
PROVIDENCE -

A local gang expert said if accused murderer Aaron Hernandez simply lives a "gang lifestyle" and surrounds himself with gang members, the consequences could be deadly.

Sgt. Michael Wheeler is in charge of the Gang Intervention Unit for the Providence Police Department. He has spent over a decade investigating and immersing himself in the gang activity in Rhode Island's capital city.

Wheeler said even if Hernandez is not a gang member himself, just hanging around with gang members carries a certain responsibility in the gang culture.

"If you get caught up in a situation whether it's involving some type of disturbance or a drive-by shooting or whatever, they expect you to participate," Wheeler said.

The Bristol County Sheriff's Office has taken a close look at Hernandez's tattoos and so far, a spokesman there says there's no evidence that the former New England Patriots player is affiliated with a particular gang.

But Wheeler said living the gang lifestyle is tantamount to being a card carrying gang member.

"That makes it the affiliation. Being with them sometimes is just as deadly or costly as being part of it," Wheeler said.

Hernandez is being held at the Bristol County Jail and House of Correction on a first-degree murder charge and five gun charges.

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