A mother and son rose in our state on Thursday to speak against violence and provide a clarifying moment of truth.

Through their words and actions they told us it is the duty of all citizens to stand against the rogues in our society.

That’s something we all need to hear in metro Phoenix, because our record is pretty shabby at the moment. We failed to stop a group of thugs who preyed for more than a year on our young people.

Connor Jarnagan, a 17-year-old boy beaten within an inch of his life by boys and young adults who call themselves the “Gilbert Goons,” did his part by imploring Arizona lawmakers to outlaw brass knuckles.

He made his case after a group of young hooligans attacked him on Dec. 30, 2022, in the parking lot of an In-N-Out at San Tan Village Marketplace in Gilbert.

On that day, one assailant told him to hand over his money and threatened to steal his car, reported The Arizona Republic’s Elena Santa Cruz.

When Jarnagan turned to grab his car keys, someone with brass knuckles hit him in the back of the head. “In that moment, I felt blood gushing down my back and soaking into my shirt,” he wrote in a letter to East Valley lawmakers.

The blow left a wound large enough to require 10 staples in his head. Doctors told him another inch and the same blow could have killed or paralyzed him.

Just to testify to lawmakers required that Jarnagan push through the emotional trauma of that event.

But that only begins to explain it.

There’s something we now all know about the Gilbert Goons. They’re retaliatory.

Many young people and parents have been afraid to report things they know about the Goons because these thugs threaten and exact revenge.

It is no small thing for young Connor Jarnagan to stand in such a public way — before the state Legislature and Valley media — and push back. He and his family know their actions can carry consequences.

But they chose to exercise courage.

They decided to take this story and make it productive.

“When I figured out I got hit with brass knuckles ... we were thinking, ‘Why do we need brass knuckles in our community. Does it make us safer?’ ” Jarnagan told The Republic.

“We’re one of 12 states that doesn’t have any restrictions on brass knuckles right now, so I wrote to our legislators.”

On Thursday, he helped persuade the Arizona Senate Judiciary Committee to unanimously advance Senate Bill 1183, sponsored by John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills. He hopes the bill will be approved by the entire Legislature and signed by the governor.

Connor Jarnagan has one other hope, perhaps unexpected from a 17-year-old. This one is for his attacker, the person who struck him with brass knuckles.

It, too, gets at social responsibility. We are a society that believes in justice, but we also believe in contrition and repentance and forgiveness.

“I definitely believe in forgiveness,” said Jarnagan. “And since we were forgiven, like Jesus, I’ve tried to make that one of the main things in my life.

“At first it was really hard, because I was hit, and I was injured for a while. I couldn’t play sports. But then I started realizing that there are some things that I’ve done and everybody has done and ultimately we’ll all be forgiven.

“I’ve tried to use that to help me forgive others. And so, ultimately, I forgave him, because I know he can turn his life around. And I’m really happy if he does do that.”

For her part, Jarnagan’s mother, Stephanie, told The Republic how important it had been for people in the southeast Valley to mobilize once they saw the connections between various attacks.

One of those attacks resulted in the Oct. 28 beating death of 16-year-old Preston Lord in Queen Creek, who was head-stomped in the street at a Halloween party.

“People were rightly appalled that this happened,” she said. “They came together and formed these social media groups, and they attended city council meetings. I mean Queen Creek, Gilbert, Chandler, Mesa.

“It’s really refreshing to see people get involved in their government, and I think that should be the standard and not the exception.”

The standard, not the exception.

Those are words that cut to the quick for this journalist and Gilbert resident, because they’re true, and because I know I’m part of the problem.

Before the Gilbert Goons came to light, I couldn’t name one person on the Gilbert Town Council, including the mayor. I know a lot more about Phoenix City Hall than the Town Hall that governs my own community.

My attitude has been, “Just fix the potholes and you’ll never hear from me.”

And I’m pretty sure I’m the norm in Gilbert.

We, the citizens of this town elected, or through our apathy left the job to a fraction of our fellow citizens to elect a Town Council that was ill-equipped to manage a crisis such as the Gilbert Goons.

Many have since screamed at the council for its dereliction of duty, which was real and disturbing. But at least those council members — our neighbors — showed up to serve their community.

What of the rest of us?

Make it clear:Gilbert Goons will not attack our kids

Our indifference left this place unguarded when a bunch of thugs decided they could violently attack our children at burger joints, parks and shopping mall parking lots.

We weren’t paying attention. And thus our town was ill-equipped to deal with the problem.

Well, the problem has our attention now.

And let it be on notice, that if it messes with any of our people in random or retaliatory attacks, an army of us will work through all proper channels to see that the problem finds itself behind bars.

Phil Boas is a columnist with The Arizona Republic. Email him at phil.boas@arizonarepublic.com.

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Teen speaks on 'Gilbert Goons,' shows us true courage

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05.02.2024

A mother and son rose in our state on Thursday to speak against violence and provide a clarifying moment of truth.

Through their words and actions they told us it is the duty of all citizens to stand against the rogues in our society.

That’s something we all need to hear in metro Phoenix, because our record is pretty shabby at the moment. We failed to stop a group of thugs who preyed for more than a year on our young people.

Connor Jarnagan, a 17-year-old boy beaten within an inch of his life by boys and young adults who call themselves the “Gilbert Goons,” did his part by imploring Arizona lawmakers to outlaw brass knuckles.

He made his case after a group of young hooligans attacked him on Dec. 30, 2022, in the parking lot of an In-N-Out at San Tan Village Marketplace in Gilbert.

On that day, one assailant told him to hand over his money and threatened to steal his car, reported The Arizona Republic’s Elena Santa Cruz.

When Jarnagan turned to grab his car keys, someone with brass knuckles hit him in the back of the head. “In that moment, I felt blood gushing down my back and soaking into my shirt,” he wrote in a letter to East Valley lawmakers.

The blow left a wound large enough to require 10 staples in his head. Doctors told him another inch and the same blow could have killed or paralyzed him.

Just to testify to lawmakers required that Jarnagan push through the emotional trauma of that event.

But that........

© Arizona Republic


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