ARIZONA NEWS

2 East Valley parents file lawsuits in alleged youth violence cases

Feb 14, 2024, 5:22 PM | Updated: Mar 12, 2024, 10:06 am

PHOENIX — Two parents of East Valley teenagers have filed lawsuits against suspects accused in youth violence cases.

JoBeth Palmer, in a lawsuit filed Monday in Maricopa County Superior Court, said her 16-year-old son was attacked at a Mesa park on May 29, 2023.

The person who set up the attack was the stepson of the principal of Riggs Elementary in Chandler, according to the lawsuit. That principal, Jamie Lander, is currently on leave, according to the Chandler Unified School District.

Following the attack, the alleged suspects, who are characterized as being part of the Gilbert Goons gang, terrorized him for more than six months, her suit said.

One of the incidents took place on July 28, 2023, when three suspects encountered Palmer’s son and three of his friends at a convenience store.

The assailants allegedly chased Palmer’s son and his friends at high speeds for more than 30 minutes.

“The girls in the backseat were terrified about what would happen if they were caught,” Palmer’s lawsuit said. “(Palmer’s son) was also terrified the entire time, worried that they would be caught and the four of them beaten.”

Gilbert Goons terrorized family, Palmer’s lawsuit said

The victim’s father allegedly told the Goons to back off, after which they started threatening him as well, the suit said. Their threats allegedly mentioned Preston Lord, a 16-year-old who died after a group assault after a Queen Creek party in October 2023.

“The threats and harassment only stopped when one of the defendants was incarcerated for his role in the attack,” Palmer’s lawsuit said. This was one of the minor defendants, who KTAR News 92.3 FM won’t name due to his age.

Police have also arrested two adult defendants listed in Palmer’s suit: Christopher Fantastic, 18, and Jacob Pennington, 20. Taylor Sherman is another adult suspect named in the suit.

Fantastic was one of the suspects in the May 2023 assault, while Pennington and Sherman were two of the three Goons who allegedly chased Palmer’s son and his friends in July 2023.

Palmer is also suing two minor defendants — including Lander’s stepson.

Chandler principal’s stepson is being sued by another parent of a youth violence victim

Rick Kuehner was the first parent to sue the alleged Gilbert Goons last Thursday. Although Palmer is suing nine people, Kuehner is suing 50 — including 17 allegedly associated with the gang. His suit said his son was brutally attacked by Lander’s stepson and five of his friends on Aug. 18, 2023.

Before the attack, the principal’s stepson and his friends allegedly harassed and intimidated Kuehner’s son for months without consequences. One of the boys sent the victim a photo of a gun pointed at the camera with the caption, “do we understand each other,” the court filing said.

Kuehner’s claim said he spoke with the school’s vice principal and resource officer, both of whom claimed they couldn’t stop the harassment. He also said he called the Gilbert Police Department after cars full of teenagers showed up at his house to intimidate the family.

However, an officer allegedly claimed nothing could be done. That was one week before the six-on-one assault that sent Kuehner’s son to the hospital, the filing said.

Gilbert PD closed the case despite evidence, court documents say

Kuehner’s son spoke to a Gilbert police officer in the hospital, sharing the digital threats and identifying two of his attackers, including Lander’s stepson, according to the court filing.

That officer then allegedly met with Lander and her stepson at their home. Lander’s stepson admitted to his involvement in the incident and showed the officer a video of him and his friends attacking the victim, the court filing said.

Despite all the evidence, the Gilbert Police Department closed the investigation due to a “lack of probable cause,” court documents said.

Kuehner’s filing said the way the police department and school administrators handled the assault was “deplorable.”

“(My son) was forced by school administrators and a police officer to sit in a classroom with the kid who orchestrated a brutal gang-style attack against him,” Kuehner’s filing said. “(My son) was forced to leave CUSD and shelter overseas.”

Kuehner said he sent his son overseas to live with his mother so he could escape the violence in Gilbert.

What parents want from his East Valley youth violence lawsuits

Kuehner’s Monday notice of claim CUSD of gross negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress and violation of the 14th Amendment by being “deliberately indifferent to the threats with firearms.”

Kuehner and his son seek a total of $6 million: $1 million for Kuehner and $5 million for his son.

Palmer’s lawsuit is seeking damages of up to $10,000.

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2 East Valley parents file lawsuits in alleged youth violence cases