Gilbert police chief says there can’t be ‘vigilante justice’ in youth violence cases

Jan 25, 2024, 4:00 PM | Updated: Mar 12, 2024, 10:06 am

PHOENIX — Gilbert Police Chief Michael Soelberg urged against the spread of misinformation as rumors continue to swirl about youth violence cases in the East Valley.

“It hurts the victims,” Soelberg said Thursday during a press conference. “Regardless of what that jurisdiction is, everyone wants justice. We can’t have vigilante justice. We need people to not spread misinformation.”

Soelberg said on one occasion, a 17-year-old boy playing in front of his house was threatened after a rumor spread about the child being a murderer. Soelberg said the boy, whose address was leaked, wasn’t a suspect in any cases.

Gilbert Police have made 14 arrests related to a string of youth violence cases dating back to 2022. Four of those arrests happened this week.

“I get emotional about it because I see my kids … I wouldn’t want that to happen to [them],” Soelberg said. “Because of the lies and misinformation being shared by people for whatever reason, that information is having a negative impact.”

Soelberg said his department will start updating the media and public weekly on developments in cases and to also dispel information that could not be accurate.

Queen Creek, Mesa and Chandler have also been hampered by youth violence cases, with the death of 16-year-old Preston Lord at a Halloween party in late October the most notable.

“I want to emphasize that we recognize any arrest made in Gilbert-related cases likely won’t lessen the pain and hurt that the family and friends of Preston Lord are experiencing,” Soelberg said.

“It is our hope, however, that these arrests will bring some level of healing for any victims of teen violence in Gilbert.”

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Gilbert police chief says there can’t be ‘vigilante justice’ in youth violence cases