Summer 2023 was deadly for Arizona teens

Dozens of young people dying from gun violence
Summer 2023 was deadly for Arizona teens after dozens died from gun violence. Arizona's Family Investigative Reporter Morgan Loew explains.
Updated: Sep. 27, 2023 at 6:00 AM MST

PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) — Jeremiah Aviles was the football player everyone could count on. His teammates, his coaches and his mother say Jeremiah was a selfless friend and person.

“He was that one that you could depend on. That you could go to — a humble, amazing young man,” Jeremiah’s mother, Olga Lopez, said.

On May 6th, Jeremiah left his house to play video games at a teammate’s home. It was the last time Olga would see him alive. “I told him I loved him, and he said, ‘I love you too,’” she said. Jeremiah died after he was shot that night. The shooter was one of his teammates, according to Mesa police.

“After my son was shot and the 911 call was made, that’s where, immediately, the lies had already started,” Lopez said.

The number of children and teenagers who have died from gunshot violence in Arizona is rising dramatically, from 28 in 2015 to 56 in 2021. Firearms are now the leading cause of death for Arizona teens ages 15-17.

“We’ve reached a really grim milestone in this country, that guns are now the leading cause of death for children and teens — unthinkable not long ago. And now, sadly, a reality across the country,” said Nick Suplina, who is the senior vice president for law and policy at Everytown for Gun Safety. He says the increase in gun deaths coincides with a gun-buying spree among families just before and during the height of the pandemic. In community after community, home after home, Suplina says unsecured firearms have found their way into the hands of young people.

“It means unintentional shootings in the home, which are often by children, of children. It is teen suicide,” Suplina said. It has also resulted in more violent and deadly confrontations between young people at parties and on the street.

“We are seeing a huge number of cases of minors in possession of guns,” Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell said. A search of Arizona’s Family news archive reveals how deadly the summer was for teens in the Phoenix area.

Earlier in September, Giaginette Brown, who was 15 years old, was struck and killed by a stray bullet while sleeping in her own bed. In August, Brittany Gutierrez-Bugarin, who was 18 years old, was shot and killed in a road rage incident. A 16-year-old girl was shot and killed in Guadalupe in July. In June, Jacob Carlson, who was 18, was shot and killed in Gilbert.

In May, three teenagers were killed. Desiree Rivas was shot and killed after leaving a party in Tolleson; Henry Almeida-Garcia was found shot to death in a north Phoenix park; And Jeremiah Aviles was killed in Mesa at the home of a teammate.

“This was someone that was his teammate,” Lopez said. “He felt he could trust him. He had been to his home to play video games before.” According to court paperwork, that teammate, whose name is Peter Clabron and another teammate initially blamed the shooting on someone else who was in the home. But they later admitted that the statement they gave to the investigators on the scene was false.

Police say they found videos on Clabron’s phone that show Clabron pointing a gun at Jeremiah several times prior to and leading up to the shooting. The defense team says the shooting was an accident. Prosecutors charged Clabron with manslaughter.

Olgal Lopez says police, school officials, coaches, and parents need to do a better job of warning young people about the dangers of gun violence.

“This is a real vivid example of the conversations we have to have with our children now,” Lopez said.

See a spelling or grammatical error in our story? Please click here to report it.

Do you have a photo or video of a breaking news story? Send it to us here with a brief description.

Do you have a story you want us to investigate? Tell us about it by contacting us.