On October 28, 2023, a 16-year-old boy named Preston Lord experienced a severe assault, leaving him abandoned on a Queen Creek, Arizona street to succumb to his injuries. His tragic death instigated shock and apprehension among East Valley residents, who speculated that he fell victim to a cohort of violent teenagers known as the Gilbert Goons.
The Gilbert Goons, alternatively called the Goonies, are a loosely connected group of primarily white, upper-middle-class teenagers from various high schools in Gilbert, Queen Creek, and San Tan Valley. Accusations against them involve engaging in random attacks on fellow teens at malls, parks, restaurants, and parties, utilizing physical force, brass knuckles, and even firearms.
Who are the Gilbert Goons?
The Gilbert Goons lack the formal structure of a gang, operating as a loose network of friends united by a proclivity for violence and intimidation. Devoid of a clear motive, ideology, or leader, they appear to derive pleasure from inflicting harm on strangers, often sharing videos of their assaults on social media.
Despite lacking a defined leader, the group has been active for over a year, targeting teens of diverse races, genders, and backgrounds. Attempts to report them to authorities or expose them online have been met with threats and harassment.
Several individuals purportedly affiliated with the Gilbert Goons have been identified by victims, witnesses, and social media. Notable members include:
- Dylan Smith, 18, known as “Dyl,” arrested on November 30, 2023, and charged with second-degree murder, aggravated assault, and disorderly conduct related to Preston Lord’s murder.
- Ethan Brown, 17, nicknamed “E,” arrested on December 14, 2023, facing charges of aggravated assault and disorderly conduct for his involvement in an assault at an In-N-Out Burger on August 18, 2023.
- Ryan Miller, 18, known as “Ry,” arrested on December 15, 2023, charged with aggravated assault and disorderly conduct for his role in the same In-N-Out Burger incident.
How have the authorities responded?
The handling of the Gilbert Goons case by the Gilbert Police Department and the Queen Creek Police Department has faced criticism. Some residents allege that the police were aware of the Goons’ attacks before Preston Lord’s death but failed to take action or alert the public. Concerns also revolve around suspicions of the Goons being shielded by parental influence or the police being fearful of them.
Police authorities deny these claims, asserting an ongoing investigation since the term “Gilbert Goons” surfaced on social media. They encourage victims and witnesses to come forward with information while emphasizing their commitment to addressing the issue.
While arrests, including those of Dylan Smith, Ethan Brown, and Ryan Miller, have been made, authorities have neither confirmed nor denied a connection between the Gilbert Goons and Preston Lord’s murder, which remains under investigation.
What can be done to stop the Gilbert Goons?
The case of the Gilbert Goons has prompted concerns about teen safety in the East Valley, leading some parents and students to take matters into their own hands through online groups, protests, and demands for justice. However, experts caution that these actions might be insufficient or could pose risks to victims and suggest more comprehensive solutions such as:
- Offering support and resources for victims and their families, including counseling, legal aid, and protection.
- Educating teens and parents about the consequences of violence, bullying, and peer pressure, emphasizing prevention and reporting.
- Enhancing awareness and accountability in schools, police, and courts, ensuring clear policies for addressing cases like the Gilbert Goons.
- Encouraging positive alternatives for teens, such as sports, arts, hobbies, and community service, and creating more socializing opportunities.
The Gilbert Goons, a group of teenage assailants linked to the tragic death of Preston Lord, have exposed challenges in dealing with youth violence in the East Valley. The case has triggered a movement and a dialogue on how to address the issue and prevent similar tragedies in the future.