Here’s what Gilbert Police Chief Michael Soelberg said about ongoing youth violence investigations
Jan 18, 2024, 4:11 PM
PHOENIX — Gilbert Police Chief Michael Soelberg assured that the East Valley town was a safe community and said investigations into youth violence continue to progress during a Thursday press conference.
It was Soelberg’s first meeting with the media since youth violence rocked Gilbert and surrounding cities in the past several months, most notably 16-year-old Preston Lord’s death in Queen Creek in October.
“These recent incidents of teen violence have instilled fear and brought forth more questions on how something like this could happen in our town,” Soelberg said. “I want to start with this message to our community: This is one of the safest large cities in the country. And our neighboring communities also boast a high level of community safety.
“That’s what makes these recent acts of teen violence in the East Valley even more shocking.”
What did the Gilbert police chief say about criticism regarding their handling of youth violence cases?
Soelberg’s department has received public backlash for their work on the cases, with some arguing Gilbert Police didn’t do enough to quickly recognize a pattern of youth violence in the town and across the East Valley. A group of suspects that call themselves the Gilbert Goons have been linked to some of the assaults.
Gilbert Police has reopened multiple youth violence cases in the past week, offering up photos of possible subjects and incidents.
Rick Kuehner, the father of a victim of an Aug. 18 beating outside a Gilbert In-N-Out Burger, told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s The Gaydos and Chad Show on Friday that his son’s case fell on deaf ears in the city for far too long.
Four arrests made in the case of Kuehner’s son came last week. Several other cases are fully unsolved despite video evidence, a process that Soelberg said is tedious.
“Researching and verifying authenticity and accuracy of this information takes time, but we are committed to the process of doing this right,” Soelberg said.
What’s next for Gilbert’s youth violence investigations?
Soelberg said 13 arrests related to youth violence were made in the 20 months between February 2022 and Lord’s death.
Nine additional arrests have been made since Jan. 3 and he said that more will come since several investigations remain active.
“My message would be if we can prove charges on you, we will arrest you,” Soelberg said. “Whether it’s us, the county, Queen Creek, Mesa or Chandler, you cannot commit a crime and expect to get away with it.”