Gilbert Police Chief talks in-depth on teen violence cases

Ashley Holden
9 Min Read

GILBERT, AZ — The last few months have been filled with dozens of arrests in teen violence cases for the Gilbert Police Department. This week, Gilbert Police Chief Michael Soelberg sat down with ABC15 one-on-one to talk about their teen violence cases, the community’s cry for more action, and the heightened fear that followed the beating death of 16-year-old Preston Lord.


Lord was attacked at a nearby Queen Creek Halloween party and later died. But directly following the teen’s death, the concern over teen violence heightened along with the calls for more action.

Even though Lord’s case was a Queen Creek Police investigation, Chief Soelberg said the Gilbert Police Department made contact with all seven suspects arrested in the case at various times. Those contacts included a wide range of reasons, from as little as a traffic citation to aggravated assault.

Ashley Holden: What could have been done to intervene with some of these juveniles, with some of these adults? Could that violence that we’ve seen have been prevented?

Chief Soelberg: Every case and every individual is different, and so I can’t give you a blanket statement as to what could have been done differently with each one. I can tell you, as a police department, we actively investigate the crimes that are reported to us. The unfortunate part with this information that we have now, a lot of the crimes though we received videos on after Preston Lord was killed. 


The earliest teen violence case that ABC15 is tracking happened in November 2022. The assault happened at a home and the victim, Dale Jorgensen, recently came forward this year. Two of the suspects in this case have also been accused in Lord’s death.

“Just weeks after Preston Lord’s murder is when I realized I probably need to report it, something has to be done,” Jorgensen told ABC15 in a February interview.

His case is one of five teen violence assaults that occurred in Gilbert between November and December 2022. In two of those, the same juvenile suspect was arrested quickly after. Two cases were newly reported this year, and two were reopened by Gilbert Police. Several of the suspects now arrested in those five assault cases have been tied to multiple teen violence cases.

Ashley Holden: How did that not tip you off to thinking these are some of the same faces that we’re seeing what is happening here?

Chief Soelberg: So again, you have to keep in mind what we know now, compared to what we knew then. When those incidents were happening in November and December, the majority of those were not reported to the police.

In total, Gilbert Police says six cases were reopened for various reasons and 10 were newly reported following Lord’s death in October.

Numerous assaults occurred at the Gilbert In-N-Out. One from August of 2023 was reopened after ABC15 started asking questions. Police ultimately put out pictures and asked for the public’s help in identifying potential suspects. Four people have now been charged and the case is considered closed.

“In that case, and keep in mind traditionally we wouldn’t put videos, especially victims, that are juveniles out to the media to the public to for consumption,” said Chief Soelberg. “But that’s a case where we could have gone out sooner on getting that to the public. And when we reviewed that investigation we did. We got that out in December, and we quickly were able to identify the individuals involved and make arrests shortly thereafter.”


ABC15 started hearing concerns about a group known as the “Gilbert Goons” in the days following Lord’s death. On November 3, 2023, ABC15 reached out to Gilbert Police about the group. At that time, the department said they didn’t have any documented cases involving the group’s name.

It wasn’t until mid-December that the department said they had recently heard the name referenced on social media. Then in January Gilbert Police announced the investigation into the “Gilbert Goons”, which also involves multiple agencies.

Ashley Holden: So December was the earliest time that your Department learned of the name the Gilbert Goons?

Chief Soelberg: In December of 23, as we started to get all the videos from the media and the public. That is when we started hearing the name, and that’s when we began our investigation into them was in November of 2023. 

ABC15 followed up after the interview to ask about the November date. Gilbert Police said, via email, that the department started looking into the group on Nov. 20, 2023.

Chief Soelberg said that the investigation into the “Gilbert Goons” is still ongoing and couldn’t provide a timeline for it to be completed.

Court documents for some of the suspects arrested in Gilbert Police’s teen violence cases note they are “associated with a group which has been involved in several similar, targeted assaults”.

Ashley Holden: So, if they’re calling them a group, you know, in court, in police reports. I mean, how long does it take to figure out what they are? Who’s part of it? 

Chief Soelberg: The big question is whether we can be classified as a criminal street gang. So regardless, whether they’re criminal street gang, there are groups of individuals that are committing assault, regardless of if they’re a criminal street gang or not.


Despite the calls for Chief Soelberg’s resignation, he told ABC15 he does not have plans to resign.

Ashley Holden: I know I’ve heard from people in the community that feel like your department doesn’t take teen violence seriously and there is a lack of trust. How do you bridge that lack of trust? 

Chief Soelberg: The big difference in the frustration that the public’s seen is that after Preston Lord was killed, there was an influx of information that was provided to the media, through social media, and to us and to the other police departments. That information was not available to us before. And that’s a frustration on our side as well.

Later Chief Soelberg said he wants to ensure that the community knows they can work with his department.

“If it’s not reported, it’s more than likely going to occur again to somebody else. And so to please come forward. Let us work with you, with our victim advocates, and with our officers in the legal process. We can help protect you.”

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Ashley Holden ,
Investigations , 2024-03-16 05:17:26

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