ARIZONA NEWS

Mesa Police Chief asks public for help in teen violence investigations

Jan 18, 2024, 4:15 AM | Updated: 12:51 pm

Mesa Police Chief Ken Cost tells city teen violence not tolerated...

A notorious gang called the "Gilbert Goons" is known for posting videos of group attacks on social media. Mesa Police Chief Ken Cost said he won't stand for teen violence. (Pexels Photo/Mesa Police Department Photo)

(Pexels Photo/Mesa Police Department Photo)

PHOENIX — Mesa Police Chief Ken Cost said his city won’t stand for teen violence in a Wednesday interview with KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Gaydos and Chad Show.

Cost told the public about the arrest of an unnamed 17-year-old in a video released Saturday. He also addressed the overall surge of teen violence in the East Valley, which may be related to a gang known as the “Gilbert Goons.” They’re famous for brutal blitz-style assaults in Gilbert, Mesa, Queen Creek and surrounding areas.

“The idea was to make sure to message our community, who had a lot of questions about what was going on,” Cost said.

He wanted to be transparent about how the Mesa Police Department addresses violent crimes in the city. “It’s far beyond just the Gilbert Goons. Teen violence, and violence in general for our young people, extends throughout the whole city,” he added.

Cost said his department will investigate every violent case as much as it possibly can.

What’s the latest update in the East Valley teen violence cases?

Mesa police announced an update on their teen violence investigations on Wednesday. The department said Christopher Fantastic, an 18-year-old previously arrested in connection to a Gilbert assault, is also facing charges in Mesa for another attack.

“He chose not to speak with us, so we did not get an interview with him,” Cost said. Thus, Mesa PD doesn’t currently suspect Fantastic of being part of the Gilbert Goons, he added.

Cost also didn’t say definitively whether or not he thinks the Gilbert Goons could legally be defined as a street gang.

Mesa Police Chief Ken Cost calls for public’s help

However, help from the public is essential to bring justice to victims, Cost said.

“We need folks that are cooperative, we need people to call in and make the report,” he said.

Cost also wanted to reassure teens who feel terrified and demoralized in the wake of 16-year-old Preston Lord’s death at the hands of a violent gang of boys.

“Let them know: The things that you’re seeing, the things that you’re hearing, in social media all around you, the department’s here for you,” Cost said. “We’ve got your back.”

The Gilbert Goons upload videos of their group assaults on social media apps, which retraumatize their victims, one mental health advocate told Gaydos and Chad.

Police haven’t said if any of the teens who killed Lord are affiliated with the Gilbert Goons. However, Lord’s death triggered intense scrutiny of the Gilbert Police Department.

Gilbert leaders tight-lipped about teen violence

The first time Gilbert’s town council publicly addressed teen violence was in a Jan. 9 town council, when it voted to establish a teen violence subcommittee.

Community members who gave public comments accused Gilbert Mayor Brigette Peterson of being apathetic, making a joke out of teen violence and having no sense of urgency for finding solutions. One expressed dismay at the fact that Peterson didn’t attend any of the vigils or marches to honor Lord.

Peterson told the community her heart broke for Lord’s family but said the council didn’t want to intervene in the prosecution of any teen violence cases.

“We didn’t know about this topic,” Peterson said. “As Councilmembers, we are not privy to information, which we shouldn’t be. You should not want us to have that information.”

Arizona’s Family reporter Briana Whitney said she tried to talk to the town council after the meeting, but police barricaded the officials and Peterson said, “No comment.”

During the meeting, Peterson said teen violence investigations were solely the responsibility of the police.

Gilbert Chief of Police Michael Soelberg hasn’t released a video like Cost has, but his department posted a written statement earlier in January saying teen violence wouldn’t be tolerated. Gilbert PD also opened a webpage describing its teen violence investigations.

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Mesa Police Chief asks public for help in teen violence investigations