Alaska State Troopers confirm Tuesday afternoon that the body discovered last Friday was in fact 16-year-old David Grunwald and the manner of death was homicide. Many questions remain as the investigation continues, including whether Grunwald’s death was gang related.


Troopers believe several teens and an adult may have been involved the crime, though so far only 16-year-old Erick Almandinger has been charged.


When many people first learned that name, they took it to Facebook and started making accusations. Several of Almandinger’s pictures show him flashing known gang signs. Those pictures have since been removed from his Facebook account.


Retired Anchorage police gang intelligence officer Scott Lofthouse said those kinds of posts aren’t uncommon for teens. He said many of them learn about the gang lifestyle through the internet or music culture and start to emulate it.


Lofthouse said it’s a dangerous path to go down and that actions speak louder than pictures.


“You have a tendency to do things violent or otherwise promote your credibility within the gang,” Lofthouse said. “Something like what happened out here in the Valley recently. It doesn’t surprise me that there may be a gang element but at this point I would say that it’s really way too early to say if it actually had any part of that incident.”


Both Palmer and Wasilla Police Departments said they aren’t aware of any established gangs in the Valley.


“It’s more like a group of friends that get together and engage in sometimes illegal activities,” Palmer Police Chief Lance Ketterling said. “It’s kids acting tough and sometimes it’s much more serious.”


Ketterling said his department tries to keep track of small groups of teens that will sometimes get together and cause trouble, but said Almandinger was not among those on his radar.


Alaska State Troopers declined to comment on gang activity in the Valley.


KTVA 11’s Shannon Ballard can be reached via email or on Facebook and Twitter.


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