Three months later, East Valley community walks for Preston Lord, amid ‘Gilbert Goons’ investigation

Ashley Holden
5 Min Read

CHANDLER, AZ — On Saturday, Veterans Oasis Park in Chandler was filled with orange. The East Valley community came together to honor 16-year-old Preston Lord. The teen was at a Halloween party in nearby Queen Creek when he was assaulted and later died. Sunday marks three months since that party, but there have still been no arrests in Lord’s case.

“My heart breaks for the Lord family,” said East Valley mom Kelle Whitehead. “That’s why we’re here. That’s why most of us are here, just to support them. Let them know that there’s an army here that is going to help and support them through this and make some change hopefully.”

Saturday with orange ribbons lining the path, dozens of people came to walk with Lord’s family.

“I think like most parents, the violence is devastating,” said East Valley parent Dawn Sorenson. “So being here is just a way to show support to the Lord family.”

Fears escalated after Lord’s death, and the community also pushed for justice in other cases of teen violence.

“We need to be there for our kids as adults,” said Sorenson. “Hopefully this is the start of something, a movement, that will be able to be felt in the community for years to come; so that nothing like this happens again.”

Multiple agencies in the East Valley made over 15 arrests in teen violence cases. Some of those cases were newly reported, while others were reopened.

RELATED: Three teenagers arrested in connection to two alleged assaults in Gilbert

An investigation was also launched into a group known as the “Gilbert Goons”. Local and state agencies are still investigating if the group can be classified as a criminal street gang.

“Preston’s light exposed the cases that were reported to police and neglected,” said Lord’s Stepmom Melissa Ciconte. “We had cases reopened, arrests were made, and victims started to come forward. We hope to find justice for them also.”

Police have not tied the “Gilbert Goons” to Lord’s case, and months later the teen’s family is still waiting for arrests.

Charges against seven people were recommended by Queen Creek police in late December. The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office is still reviewing the case.

“The Lord family will not accept anything less than an arrest and a conviction against each person that assaulted Preston,” said Ciconte.

After the group walked Saturday, Ciconte shared some memories from the final moments with their son.

“I will always remember holding Preston’s hand, stroking his hair, and giving him a kiss on the forehead while standing at his bedside in the hospital,” said Ciconte. “Letting him go was the hardest thing to do.”

She and others believe Lord has made a lasting impact on the East Valley community.

Ciconte thanked the community for their support and said there is strength in numbers.

“There’s power in the people, and to think all of this started with an orange bracelet,” said Ciconte.

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Ashley Holden ,
2024-01-28 05:25:38 , Chandler News

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