ARIZONA NEWS

5 arrests made in connection with 2 violent attacks on minors in East Valley

Jan 10, 2024, 4:05 PM | Updated: Jan 11, 2024, 1:23 pm

PHOENIX – Five arrests have been made in connection with violent attacks on minors in the East Valley last year with one suspect admitting his association with the notorious gang Gilbert Goons, according to authorities.

Jacob Pennington, 20, of Gilbert was arrested Wednesday morning for his involvement in a November attack in San Tan Valley, the Pinal County Sheriff’s office announced. Pennington said in a post-arrest interview he was associated with the Gilbert Goons, according to a probable cause statement.

In a separate case, Christopher Fantastic, 18, was one of four suspects arrested in connection with an August assault in Gilbert. Hours after announcing Fantastic’s arrest, the Gilbert Police Department revealed the arrests of three more suspects in the August assault. Aris Arredondo, 18, and two 16-year-olds were also arrested on aggravated robbery and aggravated assault charges.

What do we know about Pinal County assault case?

Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s The Mike Broomhead Show investigators used video and other evidence to identify Pennington in a Nov. 18 attack on a 16-year-old boy.

Video shows multiple people assaulting the victim in a desert area near Wagon Wheel Road and Sun Dance Drive at about 9:45 p.m. that evening, according to the probable cause statement.

Pennington was identified as the main aggressor in the altercation and was accused of hitting the victim several times, including with a belt, according to the court documents. Pennington told police he was defending a female friend who he said was struck by the victim.

Lamb also said his office has been working closely with other Valley agencies, including Queen Creek and Gilbert police, “to ensure that we can reduce violent crime amongst juveniles everywhere in this area.”

What are the details of the Gilbert attack?

Fantastic was booked on one count each of assault with intent to injure and aggravated robbery, according to Maricopa County online jail records. His bond was set at $25,000, and his next court appearance was scheduled for Jan. 17.

Maricopa County court records for Fantastic’s arrest have been sealed.

During his initial court appearance on Wednesday morning, prosecutors alleged that Fantastic was part of a group that planned and perpetrated the violent attack on a minor Aug. 18 outside an In-N-Out Burger. The Gilbert Police Department previously circulated photos of suspects in an aggravated robbery that occurred that night in the restaurant parking lot near Williams Field Road and Market Street.

Brooke Gaunt, who represented the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office during Fantastic’s initial court appearance, said the victim was fortunate he wasn’t injured more seriously.

“He’s lucky not to have suffered permanent physical injuries as a result of the suspect’s actions. However, the victim will likely suffer permanent emotional and psychological damage as a result of these events,” Gaunt said.

Is there a connection between Gilbert arrests and Gilbert Goons?

Gaunt implied that Fantastic was part of a group involved in multiple attacks without specifically mentioning the Goons.

“The state also wants to reiterate the fact that this attack is only one among several in the community in Gilbert that have been perpetrated by a group that the defendant belongs to with several other violent juveniles and adults,” she said. “The state’s concerned about the constant victimization of the community and potential future attacks if he is not given a high bond.”

Gaunt told the judge that accusation about other attacks was based on information from the Gilbert Police Department.

Gilbert Police Chief Michael Soelberg told town leaders Tuesday night that the department was investigating nine active cases of youth violence.

Media reports and social media speculation have linked the attacks to the Gilbert Goons.

Reports have also linked the gang to the fatal assault on Queen Creek high school student Preston Lord. Lord, 16, was attacked outside a Halloween party on Oct. 28 and died of his injuries in a hospital two days later.

Where does the investigation into Preston Lord’s death stand?

The Queen Creek Police Department submitted charges to MCAO against seven suspects on Dec. 28.

Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell said last week that it will take some time to sort through the submission, which included an 1,800-page report and about 2,000 pieces of evidence, including 600 videos.

“We have one chance to do it right and we want to go in with the strongest possible prepared position so that this can be taken care of,” Mitchell told KTAR’s The Mike Broomhead Show on Friday.

Mitchell told reporters on Wednesday afternoon that the Fantastic case isn’t related to the Lord case.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said the Pinal County assault occurred in Queen Creek. The location was actually in San Tan Valley.

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5 arrests made in connection with 2 violent attacks on minors in East Valley