Maine Gangs Part 2: Bangor 

Last December, 20-year-old Zachary Carr was sentenced in the murder of John “Bobby” Surles. A debate that sparked during sentencing caught our attention here at TV5.A state prosecutor said what occurred the night Surles was shot was gang-like activity, but other Bangor officials disagree.In January 2010, a fight on Cumberland Street in Bangor turned deadly. 19-year-old Surles was shot. He died the next day. Carr was convicted of murder and is now serving a 35-year sentence. Although they try to put it behind them, friends of Surles said their lives are different now. “People that were Bobby’s friends, a lot of us changed. It felt like they took more than just a friend away from us, they took pretty much everything. I stopped skateboarding, a lot of us got into drugs because we were so depressed. It changed our whole lives pretty much, destroyed it really,” said Zac Ladd, who grew up with Surles.They said they never thought their fighting with another group of young people would get to this level. They identify themselves as a group of skaters who spent their time at a local skate park. They said they often got in fights with another group who dressed in red and called themselves “The Bloods.””They said that they were bloods or whatever and they always came to the skate park and always fronted like they were and always tried to pick fights with us. So then we just kept on fighting it and then it kind of escalated,” said Ladd.They said they didn’t consider themselves a gang, but as their fights escalated, they took on the mentality of one.Ladd said, “It got into our minds I guess. We started turning into a gang because they progressed it like that.”It progressed until the night of the street fight where Carr shot Surles. But was that fight between two gangs? Bangor Police Chief Ron Gastia said police officers asked themselves that question, but ultimately determined it wasn’t.”It was a group of people who had differences and they had a fight about it and it turned very, very tragic. We should not be labeling that activity as gang activity, as an organized gang,” said Gastia.Gastia said the Bangor Police Department doesn’t have its own definition of a gang, but he says no activity in Bangor would meet the definition of gangs that other parts of the country and even other parts of the state are seeing. “The clothes you wear doesn’t individually make you a gang. What you call yourselves doesn’t individually make you a gang. It’s whether or not you’ve organized, whether or not you have some sort of a hierarchy, whether or not you have organization, leadership, whether or not you have a goal and part of that goal is to commit criminal activity,” said Gastia.Although Gastia said there aren’t gangs in Bangor, his officers are still trained to handle gang activity and they receive information from the Maine Gang Task Force. It’s their way of being proactive. “We need to keep ourselves informed and trained about these things and as we move into the future we will continue to do that and if we start to see some sort of swing, change having to do with gangs, we’ll approach it at that point,” said Gastia.As for the two so-called gangs involved in the street fight two years ago, they rarely fight anymore.Ladd said, “That just shows, don’t fight over stupid things like girlfriends, just don’t fight over stupid stuff. If you think it’s worth dying over, it’s not.”