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|Gang violence makes a comeback in the Northwoods; may be related to Valliere death
NORTHWOODS - Gang violence in the Northwoods could have caused the homicide of Wayne Valliere Jr. last month.
Five Northwoods men were charged last week with first-degree intentional homicide and hiding Valliere's corpse in Iron County.
Now, it looks like a tribal gang affiliation could have played a part.
Police in Vilas County and Lac du Flambeau confirmed all five men accused of killing Wayne Valliere Jr. were all affiliated with either the Native Soliders Gang or the Sovereign Nation Warriors Gang.
Both gangs have history in the Lac du Flambeau area, drawing attention and action from the tribe and police.
"Gang activity in Vilas County probably started in the last ten or 15 years," said Vilas County Sheriff Joseph Fath.
Fath says gangs are nothing new to northern Wisconsin.
"Three hundred or 400 people identified since our [gang] record system has been up in Vilas County," said Fath.
Fath faces motorcycle gangs, and small streets gangs throughout the county.
But lately, Fath has been investigating two of the largest gangs in the area.
"Our biggest problems are these two Native American gangs that both originated in the prison systems and then came out on the streets," said Fath.
The Native Soldiers and its predecessor, the Sovereign Nation Warriors, or the SNWs, are most closely tied to Lac du Flambeau.
The Vilas County Sheriff's Office and the Lac du Flambeau Police Department put many of the SNWs' leadership in prison 10 to 15 years ago, and Lac du Flambeau gang activity quieted down.
But now, some of those original gang members are finishing their prison sentences, and SNW is picking up where it left off, along with a new emerging gang, the Native Soldiers.
"Primarily, the younger members formed their own gang. They were affiliated for a while and then they had a falling out and they went off in their own direction," said Fath.
Gang affiliates Richard Allen, Joseph Lussier, James Lussier, Curtis Wolfe, and Evan Oungst are now being charged with the December murder of Valliere.
Fath says all five suspects and the victim were involved with the gang.
After police discovered Valliere's body in early January, a forensic pathologist found eight bullet wounds in Valliere: two to his head and neck, and six others to his backside.
"Power is the name of the game," said Vilas County Board member Tom Maulson.
Maulson used to be Lac du Flambeau's Tribal Chairman. Maulson's tribal council banished suspected gang members from the reservation.
"We told them, 'hey get to the reservation line you're not welcome here,'" said Maulson.
In 2013, four members of the Lussier family were banished due to gang and drug violence.
Maulson no longer has the power to banish gang members from the reservation, but that doesn't keep him from feeling passionately about it.
"You can't just sit back and say, 'Well I didn't know.' Come on. In our communities, we know what's going on," said Maulson.
"It can be very scary and concerning and alarming," said tribal member Adrian King.
King was friends with Valliere, but said he didn't know Valliere was involved with a gang.
King was shocked to hear he was shot to death by gang affiliates.
"It's just the basic decency of being a human being; they know that was not right," said King.
In a press release after Valliere's murder, the Lac du Flambeau Tribal said,
"This type of activity is precisely the reason the Tribe recently held a meeting with officials and agencies from Iron, Oneida and Vilas Counties to discuss the need for a joint effort to fight drug abuse and violence in the Tri-county Region."
Four out of the five suspects in Vallier's death are in jail.
James Lussier remains missing.
All five suspects face life in prison if convicted.
Story By: Erin Beu
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