RALEIGH, N.C. — Four suspects involved in a carjacking, police chase and deadly shooting are tied a Latino gang, according to authorities.
The one suspect who escaped from police custody for a day is in this country illegally, officials said.
Nelson Hernandez and two others connected to the crime are in jail. They are part of a small, but violent group that is getting the authorities’ attention.
When police surrounded an apartment in west Raleigh Tuesday night, they were looking for Hernandez. He was accused of a crime spree that started in Raleigh and ended in Durham with him escaping from a patrol car.
Something else got the attention of investigators, however. They say Hernandez and the other suspects in the case are members of the "Latin King Gang."
Sgt. Ray Rivera tracks gang activity for the Wake County Sheriff's Office.
“Like anywhere else in this country, we've seen an influx of gangs here in this area,” he said.
One of the main things investigators look for when they're trying to determine whether there's gang activity in a neighborhood is gang graffiti.
Raleigh police track individual gang members by filling out profiles. As of Thursday, they had identified 2,000 gang members. Six percent of those are Latino. Investigators said they are a small, but increasingly violent group.
Maj. Ken Mathias oversees gang units in the Raleigh Police Department.
“It starts out as kids playing around. But as potential gang members grow in the gang and become full-fledged gang members, so does the violence increase,” he said.
Officers say the key to stopping the violence is keeping teens out of gangs.
“The more you are involved in a young person's life, the less chance they have of going the wrong way. I mean, that's the bottom line,” Rivera said.
"The emerging gang problem is one that the police department is not going to be able to solve by arresting people," Mathias said. "We can't arrest our way out of this problem."
Raleigh police said they're working to break down language and cultural barriers that make it difficult to investigate the cases.