The latest on Gilbert Goons, Preston Lord, teen violence in East Valley | Phoenix New Times


Teen violence: What we know about Preston Lord’s killing, Gilbert Goons

Scores of arrests in teen violence cases across the East Valley, but none so far in the October beating death of Preston Lord.
Preston Lord died on Oct. 30, two days after he was attacked in Queen Creek. His death sparked outrage about teen violence in the East Valley.
Preston Lord died on Oct. 30, two days after he was attacked in Queen Creek. His death sparked outrage about teen violence in the East Valley. Justice4PrestonLord
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Update: Three more men were indicted in cases related to teen violence in Gilbert, according to a Feb. 6 announcement from Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell.


It's been three months since the death of 16-year-old honor student and athlete Preston Lord following a brutal assault at a Halloween party in Queen Creek.

Since then, the homicide has made near-daily headlines locally and across the country and shined a light on how the affluent East Valley towns of Queen Creek and Gilbert deal with teen violence. Here's a guide to the vicious attacks, the Gilbert Goons and pieces of the ongoing story.
click to enlarge Melissa Ciconte at Chandler City Council meeting
Melissa Ciconte, Preston Lord's stepmother, spoke about his death during a Chandler City Council meeting on Jan. 11.
City of Chandler

Who are the Gilbert Goons? Why are they called that?

The Gilbert Goons are a group of affluent teenagers from multiple southeast Valley high schools who, for more than a year, have randomly attacked other teens outside fast-food restaurants, in mall parking lots, and at parks and house parties. These are not your typical schoolyard squabbles — the Goons have utilized brass knuckles and left victims bleeding.

Images and videos strewn about social media and compiled by the Arizona Republic illustrate the group's depravity. In them, young men, who appear to be mostly white, kick and beat others, pose with guns and cash, and speed along roads while hanging from the sides of vehicles.

Many southeast Valley parents and students have said that the Gilbert Goons were involved in Lord's death on Oct. 30.

A Snapchat message allegedly posted by a Goon, per the Arizona Republic, hauntingly yet casually read, "I hit a kid and this kid feel (fell) hit his head and then they kicked his head in the ground then i got word he died so idk."

During a Gilbert Town Council meeting on Jan. 9, one concerned resident who went only by Brandon called the Goons "a group of entitled punk little thugs who are beating innocent people to death for no reason and getting away with it."

He went on to describe threats against his family and multiple violent incidents outside his home, including a truck that attempted to run over children.

"Some sort of improvised device was detonated up against the side of my house. And the kid walks away, didn't have a care in the world, like nothing was going to happen to him. He got into a $100,000 truck and drove away. Sounds kind of familiar," Brandon said.

The Gilbert Goons designation stems from a Snapchat group chat, according to a statement from the Pinal County Sheriff's Office. Media outlets routinely use the group moniker when covering teen violence in the East Valley.
click to enlarge Gilbert police Chief Michael Soelberg
Gilbert police Chief Michael Soelberg discussed teen violence in the East Valley during a press conference on Jan. 25.
Courtesy 12News

What are the police doing about teen violence?

Various East Valley police departments, including Queen Creek, Gilbert and Mesa, are investigating the Goons. The Chandler Police Department is cooperating with other law enforcement agencies to quell teen violence.

But some residents in the area are disillusioned by the response of Gilbert police.

"This has been going on for a long time, and we're all just now finding out about it. And it was all because the parents who had injured children finally raised enough stink that the newspaper got involved, then the media got involved," Gilbert resident Tammy Small said during the Jan. 9 town council meeting.

"Excuse me, these were reports made to police departments a long time ago, and nobody did anything," she continued while multiple attendees, donning orange T-shirts that read "Justice 4 Preston Lord," nodded along.

Small was one of many residents who spoke up during the meeting about the violence and its impact on teens in the area.

Gilbert Police Chief Michael Soelberg also addressed the community. He said the police department was working with neighboring agencies to "thoroughly investigate any individuals self-proclaiming or affiliated by others as being associated with the term Gilbert Goons." There are nine active investigations related to teen violence: four reopened and five previously unreported, Soelberg noted. The police department launched an online guide to answer questions about Teen Violence Investigations.

On Jan. 9, the Gilbert Town Council unanimously approved the formation of a teen violence subcommittee, which will evaluate "the extent of teen violence in Gilbert and concerns from the community."

During a Jan. 18 media briefing, Soelberg sought to reassure Gilbert residents.

"The death of Preston Lord in Queen Creek is senseless and tragic, and while the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office continues their review of the investigation, I want to assure you that any act of violence in Gilbert is not and will not be tolerated," Soelberg said.
click to enlarge Jacob Pennington during court hearing
Jacob Pennington was arrested on Jan. 10 and charged in the November aggravated assault of a 16-year-old in the desert of San Tan Valley.
Pinal County Sheriff's Office

Who’s been arrested so far?

There have been a slew of arrests in different jurisdictions for violent incidents involving teens.

On Jan. 10, Gilbert Police arrested Christopher Fantastic and Aris Arredondo, both 18, for allegedly attacking and robbing a teen outside a Gilbert In-N-Out on Aug. 18. The department faced criticism for arresting Fantastic, a Black teen, first, though most of the Goons are allegedly white. Two 16-year-olds, whose names have not been released, also were arrested.

On Jan. 11, Mesa Police arrested a 17-year-old for his alleged involvement in a May 2023 aggravated assault on another teen near Val Vista Drive and Southern Avenue. On Jan. 17, Mesa police once again arrested Fantastic, this time for being a suspect in a May 2023 house party attack involving 30 to 40 teens and young adults.

"The suspect has shown a clear pattern of aggression, especially to the youth of the community, and is a clear danger to the community itself," a Mesa court official said during Fantastic's initial hearing. The judge also voiced concerns about Fantastic's risk to both the general public and East Valley teens.

On Jan. 10, Pinal County sheriff's deputies arrested Jacob Pennington, 20, in connection with the aggravated assault of a 16-year-old boy in the desert of San Tan Valley on Nov. 18.

Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb posted a video of the attack on social media, adding that there could be "a few more arrests stemming from this crime." The video showed five young men surround and beat the victim while he attempts to back away from his assailants.

During Pennington's initial hearing, a representative for the Pinal County Attorney's Office stated, "Mr. Pennington admitted that he is associated with a group of people who are attacking and injuring minor children in the Valley," and requested that Pennington have no contact with the victim or the Gilbert Goons.

Lamb — in a video posted to social media on Jan. 12 — announced the arrest of a second suspect, 18-year-old Garrett Bagshaw, in the same case.

"If you have involvement in this case, my advice to you is to turn yourself in now because we will find you," Lamb said.

On Jan. 23, Gilbert police arrested Tyler Strocchia, 22, on 15 charges, including three counts of sexual conduct with a minor and eight drug charges, related to three cases.

Gilbert police said that although Strocchia's charges are not related to teen violence he did allegedly threaten a juvenile in another case that's under investigation.

On Jan. 24, Gilbert police arrested Kyler Renner, 18, for his alleged role in a November 2022 assault on a minor near Higley and Riggs roads. Renner also was identified as a suspect in a December 2022 group attack in a parking garage. He was charged with two counts of aggravated assault and two drug charges.

The December 2022 parking garage assault case was reopened in December 2023 when Gilbert police received a video of the assault. Gage Garrison, 19, and Jack Woods, 17, also were arrested and charged in connection with the assault. Woods, who police said used brass knuckles in the attack, is being charged as an adult.

While searching the Renner home, police allegedly found drugs and arrested Travis Renner, 50, and Kiara Holsapple, 20, on drug charges. Travis Renner is Kyler's father.

On Tuesday, Gilbert police arrested Deleon Haynes, 19, and a 17-year-old juvenile in connection with an assault and robbery on Aug. 18 in a parking lot near Williams Field and Market Street. Both men were charged with aggravated robbery and aggravated assault. Police said those arrests were among six made in the case.

Gilbert police said they have made 14 arrests related to teen violence in Gilbert.
click to enlarge Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell
Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell said prosecutors are reviewing more than 2,000 pieces of evidence in Preston Lord's October death.
Katya Schwenk

What’s the status of the Preston Lord case?

No arrests have been made so far in connection with Lord's killing.

The Queen Creek Police Department submitted charges against seven suspects to the Maricopa County Attorney's Office on Dec. 28. Prosecutors are reviewing more than 2,000 pages of investigative records and more than 2,000 pieces of evidence, including 600 videos, County Attorney Rachel Mitchell said during a Jan. 10 press conference. Her office has not publicly announced any charges.

"I don't know where the name Gilbert Goons came from. It doesn't seem to capture the seriousness of this," Mitchell said during the press conference. "These are criminal acts and, of course, if they are doing this through an organized street gang type situation, we will look at the enhancement of gang charges."

Mitchell also declined to comment on the ages of the seven suspects and whether any parents were recommended for charging.

Melissa Ciconte, Lord's stepmother, spoke out during a Chandler City Council meeting on Jan. 11.

"This tragedy abruptly altered our lives forever. This has been a nightmare that we have endured for the past 75 days without resolution. Preston's death is a high-profile investigation case. Preston is more than a headline," Ciconte said as she fought back tears. She advocated for a campaign to educate youth about teen violence and reduce bullying.

At a Jan. 17 town council meeting, Queen Creek Police Chief Randy Brice said the department is communicating with the county attorney's office during its review of the "extremely extensive" case.

"There will be accountability, and there will be arrests," Brice said. He added that the police department is working with neighboring departments to "help identify or investigate any patterns related to recent assaults."

What’s with the social media hype?

Several videos of teens attacking people in the East Valley were posted to social media. Prior to Lord's death, Karli Heinmiller, whose daughter was dating one of the Gilbert Goons at the time, monitored her daughter's social media and set up fake accounts of her own to track the group's activity. She submitted anonymous tips to Gilbert police and later sent the photos and videos to media outlets, helping to ignite the scrutiny and notoriety of the case.

The memes have taken off ever since.

An Instagram post by @itsallphoenix presents a video of a crying Kyle Rittenhouse titled "Gilbert Goons in Maricopa County Court." Another post, by @palestinilaw, features a photo of a football coach ripping off his headphones in disgust, accompanied by the text, "When other gangs around Phoenix hear about the 'Gilbert Goons.'"
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