ARIZONA NEWS

Gilbert gang terrorizing kids, parents in East Valley, mental health advocate says

Jan 4, 2024, 4:25 AM | Updated: Mar 12, 2024, 10:16 am

Split image of a Queen Creek Police vehicle and Preston. Lord...

Preston Lord was fatally assaulted following a Halloween party in Queen Creek, Arizona. (Facebook Photo/Queen Creek Police Department and FBI Bulletin)

(Facebook Photo/Queen Creek Police Department and FBI Bulletin)

PHOENIX — It’s dangerous to be a teen in the East Valley, according to a youth mental health advocate who knows several kids who were brutalized by a Gilbert gang.

Katey McPherson, who has spent over 20 years working for schools in Scottsdale and Gilbert, said the attacks are random and brutal. She said three of her friends’ children were victimized by the Gilbert Goons, a gang of violent teenagers, since December 2022.

“They called sobbing, traumatized … several of them had to go to the ER for stitches to their skull,” McPherson told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Gaydos and Chad Show on Wednesday.

One of the victims was attacked while getting a cheeseburger.

“The patterns for all of them are the same: Just hanging out, going to get a cheeseburger, come out and basically get blitzed, whether it’s five on one or 10 on one,” McPherson said.

After the assaults, the victims are told they’ll be attacked again if they speak to the authorities, she said.

There’s also an element of public humiliation to the attacks, which are recorded and posted on social media sites like Snapchat, TikTok and Instagram, she added.

“As a teenage boy, you don’t want attention on yourself. You just want this to go away,” McPherson said. “When you’ve already been humiliated and physically hurt, you don’t want to be hurt worse or what happened to Preston.”

Preston Lord, 16, died two days after being assaulted at an Oct. 28 Halloween party in Queen Creek. Media reports have linked the Gilbert Goons to the attack.

Both the Gilbert and Queen Creek police departments have said they’re investigating the attack on Lord and other assaults in the region.

Last month, the Queen Creek Police Department submitted charges against seven suspects in Lord’s homicide investigation. The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office is reviewing the charges.

Controversy over how police are investigating the “Gilbert Goons”

After Lord’s murder, public scrutiny against the Gilbert Police Department intensified.

Gilbert Police Chief Michael Soelberg said Wednesday his department is collecting evidence related to these attacks. He also said officers are patrolling in areas frequented by teens.

McPherson said the fact that so few victims are willing to come forward makes it harder for police to investigate these crimes.

“Some of these victims’ parents are also terrified to come forward because of the activity that these children have been doing. A lot of us are not allowing our children to go anywhere right now,” she said.

Malls, house parties and bonfires are all off-limits.

“With the unpredictability of the group, it’s hard to know who they’re after and if your child is safe,” she said.

Mother clears up misconceptions about the teen attackers

McPherson has researched the attackers, tracking social media videos and seeing who is posting the assault videos.

“For me and some fellow mom friends of mine, it’s not that hard,” she said. “Their platforms are very public and they’re very brazen about bragging about what they’re doing.”

The perception that the Gilbert Goons are all wealthy white kids being protected by their parents isn’t accurate, McPherson said.

“They’re not all rich and they’re not all white,” she said. “It’s a sexy headline, but it’s not true. These teens range from students who are middle class all the way to elite wealth.”

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Gilbert gang terrorizing kids, parents in East Valley, mental health advocate says