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Police say ‘Gilbert Goons’ is a criminal street gang — but don’t expect any new charges

The “Gilbert Goons” is officially a criminal gang, but that won’t lead to new criminal charges or enhance existing ones, police officials announced Thursday.

After months of investigating whether the Goons could be designated as a criminal street gang, authorities said the classification does not mean there is evidence to show members committed crimes in furtherance of gang activities.

In other words, documented beatings and assaults by the Goons, who have ravaged East Valley communities for more than a year, weren’t committed to prop up the gang, authorities said.

“Each of these law enforcement agencies here today have reviewed their investigations involving identified members of this gang, and based on the information available at this time, there is not sufficient evidence to submit additional charges of participating in or assisting a criminal street gang,” Gilbert Police Chief Michael Soelberg said.

Soelberg, who appeared at a news conference alongside representatives from four other East Valley law enforcement agencies and the Department of Public Safety, said the Goons are considered a hybrid gang under the law.

A hybrid gang is characterized by social media use, a mix of races among participants, a lax or absent code of conduct, affiliation of members with multiple gangs or working with rival gangs, evolving or changing gang names and an absence of specific colors or symbols, police officials said.

A traditional gang has defined leadership, formal rules, particular colors and symbols, history and a lifelong commitment by participants.

There is no legal difference between a traditional and hybrid gang, Soelberg said.

Authorities decided sometime in 2024 to call the Goons a gang, Soelberg said. But police and prosecutors since February have referred to the Goons as a gang in police reports and court documents. Investigators also identified some of the teens and adults as gang members.

Prosecutors from the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office were notably absent from Thursday’s news conference. County Attorney Rachel Mitchell said the gang classification could be used at sentencing.

“Just having the name Gilbert Goons associated with a criminal street gang does not mean that a particular crime was committed,” Mitchell said.

Soelberg’s announcement comes a day after The Arizona Republic documented 95 assaults by the Goons in 18 attacks, most of which occurred in Gilbert. Authorities have so far made only 29 arrests in those attacks.

A Dec. 14 investigation by The Republic first detailed how the Oct. 28 fatal beating of Preston Lord, 16, at a Halloween party in Queen Creek was tied to the Goons, whose members recorded their blitz-style attacks on teens in parks and parking garages, outside fast-food restaurants and at house parties.

95 assaults, 29 arrests: ‘Gilbert Goons’ videos raise questions on lack of police action

Queen Creek police in March arrested three juveniles and four adults in connection with Lord’s death. All seven are charged with first-degree murder and kidnapping charges and all have pleaded not guilty.

Two people charged in Lord’s death were arrested in January for attacks on teens in Gilbert and Mesa. Another person charged in Lord’s death appears prominently in Goons attack videos but has not been arrested in connection with them.

“I’ve mentioned numerous times, prior to Preston Lord, there was not a mention of the Gilbert Goons in any of our investigations,” Soelberg said. “After Preston Lord was killed, there was an overwhelming amount of information not only provided to us but to the media about that term and that group and that association.”

In addition to the Goons, authorities on Thursday identified a second hybrid gang called the Jack Boy Mafia, which police have dogged in the East Valley for about two years.

Authorities launched a joint investigation of the Goons in January. Gilbert police said at the time investigators would “thoroughly investigate any individuals self-proclaiming or affiliated by others as being associated with the term ‘Gilbert Goons.'”

Sgt. Dave Gale of Gilbert’s Street Crimes Unit said Thursday the gang originated in Gilbert but members live in various East Valley cities.

“In its early stages, this hybrid gang primarily consisted of individuals who attended East Valley schools and participated in underage drinking and use of illicit drugs,” he said. “The group ranged in size, and initially its members participated in a fight club type of agreement. Over time, members engaged in other criminal behaviors.”

Since November 2023, detectives have conducted more than 100 interviews and have spent hundreds of hours reviewing video footage, social media posts and other evidence, Gale said.

Records: Officials have called ‘Goons’ a gang, identified members

For months, Soelberg has stayed silent about whether the Goons were connected to any of his department’s “group teen violence cases,” citing the ongoing investigation into the group.

But police reports and court filings show that Gilbert police detectives and Maricopa County prosecutors have recognized the group as a gang and identified some members before Thursday’s announcement.

Since Lord’s death, residents of the southeast Valley have pointed fingers at the group as being responsible for his killing. The group was mentioned repeatedly in Queen Creek police’s nearly 1,100-page investigative report, including in information that Gilbert police shared.

In mid-December, Queen Creek police noted in the report that Gilbert police communicated they had investigated two Goons cases and had interacted with people believed to be part of the group.

One of those cases was the Dec. 30 brass knuckles attack on Connor Jarnagan.

Gilbert police, in mid-February, provided more information about the Goons to Queen Creek investigators, including how members make hand signs such as a “G” with one or both hands and provoke fights while sometimes armed with weapons.

A list of some Goons members and associates was also shared, including William Owen Hines, 18, who is charged in Lord’s death, according to the police report. Hines was listed as an associate. Some others charged in the Lord case were named as needing to be interviewed for a potential gang identification.

Prosecutors in Maricopa County have also identified in court files the existence of the gang and said some of its members have been arrested in connection with reactivated and newly reported assault cases in the East Valley.

In April filings, prosecutors noted that at least two people charged in Gilbert assault cases were part of a “documented gang” in Arizona. One of those individuals, Tyler Freeman, 17, was cited as an associate of the Goons.

The group, according to prosecutors in another court filing, is a “dangerous group of adults and juveniles within the city of Gilbert … and several of its members and associates have been charged with violent crimes.”

Jimmy Jenkins contributed reporting.

Elena Santa Cruz is a criminal justice reporter for The Republic. Reach her at Follow her on X @ecsantacruz3.

Robert Anglen is an investigative reporter for The Republic. Reach him at Follow him on X @robertanglen.

This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Gilbert Goons identified as a criminal street gang, police say

Originally Appeared Here

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