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Valley families who lost loved ones to gun violence struggle with the question 'Who pulled the trigger?'

We looked at a single week of gun violence in Maricopa County. More than 1/3 of the cases involved teens, and most are unsolved.

PHOENIX — You had her for a while, didn't you?

Your daughter, a light in your life.

And then one day when she was 19, the light of your life was in her new apartment in Gilbert when someone came and shot her.

Police say she called them, that the light of your life fought them off. It didn't matter, except in the narrative and maybe a little for your piece of mind.

You have no answers. The killer hasn't been caught. Your daughter is gone.

Kim Hansen's daughter is gone. Now, Hansen stands in her backyard, watching a small foal gently nuzzle its mother. 

The new life brings hope – a strong contrast to the pain Kim has carried with her every day for the last year. 

“This world is hard, and it's broken and fallen,” she said. “And that's why these evil things happen. And maybe God took her from it.”

On June 4, 2022, Kim’s daughter Rachel was shot and killed in her new apartment in Gilbert. She was 19. Police said she called 911 as she fought to survive, telling dispatchers she didn’t know the person who shot her.

“There's no motive. There’s no witness. No weapon. No cameras. There's nothing,” Kim said. 

At the time, Rachel’s prized mare was pregnant with the foal that now roams Kim’s backyard. 

A year later, Rachel’s murder remains unsolved. 

7 days, 1,000 shootings nationwide

Rachel’s life was taken in a random act of gun violence during a week that would start a deadly summer.

The week of May 29 to June 4, 2022, marked not only the first week of summer but also the first week of the year that the Gun Violence Archive documented more than 1,000 shootings nationwide. 

That same week, more than 450 people were killed by gun violence nationwide, not including suicides, and 900 more were injured. 

And in Maricopa County,  the 12News I-Team confirmed 12 shootings that killed 10 people and injured 15 more. 

Credit: 12News

Five of those shootings included teens. Eight, including Rachel’s, remain unsolved. 

"Your chance of being killed by a firearm in Arizona is 1 out of 81 during your lifetime," said Al Williams, a researcher with the Arizona Public Health Association, or AZPHA.

Earlier this year, AZPHA released a study examining two decades of gun violence data in Arizona and nationwide. From 1999 to 2020, the study reported that shooting fatalities in Arizona have been trending upwards. 

Credit: AZPHA

According to the study, shooting fatalities in 1999 were in the low 800s compared to more than 1,200 in 2020.  Arizona's rate of firearm deaths over the same timeframe is higher than the national rate. The death toll added each year over the two-decade span from gun violence was more than 21,000 in Arizona, a fraction of the more than 736,000 people killed nationwide.

Credit: AZPHA

"In Arizona, suicides for almost two-thirds of firearm deaths - 65%," Williams stated. "Far and away above homicides, which were at 31% of firearm deaths, and then all the other things like police shootings, mass shootings and whatnot, only represented just a few percent, even though they get all the headlines. 

RELATED: TEGNA stations looked at one week, showing a nation gripped by gun violence.

Teens shot and killed in Maricopa County 

During the week of May 29 to June 4, 2022,  at least five shootings in Maricopa County involved teenage victims, according to the I-Team’s analysis of local police department records. 

Beginning Sunday, May 29, when 18-year-old Luis Torres was shot and killed at a party. Five other teens were injured. 

In December, another teen was arrested for the crime. 

RELATED: Arrest made in deadly shooting at Phoenix house party in May 

The other four cases involving teenage victims that week one year ago remain unsolved. 

  • June 1, 2022, Jayden Carnow-Garcia,18, was shot and killed on Interstate 17 near Thunderbird Road. Police report that he was found dead in a car struck by bullets - in a drainage ditch.  

  • June 3, 2022, Damarkus Edison,15, was shot and killed outside his house in Phoenix near 13th and Vogel avenues. Hours later, another shooting just blocks away would kill another teen and injure eight more. 

  • June 4, 2022, Emily Morgan,14, was shot and killed at a gathering with roughly 100 people outside a strip mall in Phoenix near 10th Avenue and Hatcher Road. Police said at least eight more young people were struck by bullets when an altercation- turned-shooting resulted in someone firing “many rounds” into the crowd. 

  • On June 4, 2022, Rachel Hansen, age 19, was shot and killed in her apartment in Gilbert. 

“If everybody stays quiet, nothing gets solved. And you have all these murderers out on the street. And they're – we're not safe anymore,” said Meagan Orantes. Orantes’ teenage daughter was close friends with Damarkus Edison. 

She spoke with 12News hours after learning Edison had died, hoping that bringing awareness to these shootings would spark change in the community. Change she had already been fighting for since 2020, when her son, Andy Franco, was shot and killed at a house party. 

He was 18. 

“I want to see stricter laws regarding the parents. When a child has a gun, either on social media, or walking the street or being caught in a car, the parents need to be held accountable for their children,” Orantes said. “I want to see, in high schools, in junior high, and elementary schools -  a hotline where you can call about a child who has access to a gun or who is talking about firearms.” 

Beyond that, she wants people to speak up and help investigators solve these cases. 

“Because there are killers out here in Phoenix, in the surrounding areas. And people know that they have killed somebody. And they're not stepping forward. They're not saying anything,” Orantes said.

According to Arizona’s Child Fatality Review, in 2022, firearm deaths surpassed drug overdoses and car wrecks as the number one killer of kids ages 15 to 17.

“As opposed to using the word senseless, maybe we could replace that word with let's make sense of what's happening,” said Joronda Montaño, a teen mental health advocate. “If now we're saying that gun violence by teens, on teens, is a part of that, we cannot ignore what is happening in a post-pandemic world with the poor health conditions of our youth; we cannot ignore that if we expect it to get better.” 

Montaño explained that the pandemic exacerbated levels of isolation, anxiety and depression in teens, but they aren’t necessarily being matched with someone who can help them.

“We have to start talking about and keeping tabs on what's happening with our teens - at home, at school and in our communities,” Montaño said. “And notice that something has changed about you, your appearance, your thought process, who you're hanging out with.”

“Simply take time to talk when there is time,” she added. “Don't make it a big event. Take time to talk in the car. Take time to talk when you walk in the house when they walk in the house. I'm a huge advocate of leaving notes.”

Why cases remain unsolved a year later 

Eight of 12 shootings in Maricopa County from May 29-June 4, 2022, remain unsolved. 

Phoenix police did not provide the number of homicides solved in 2022, but the city manager does provide clearance data for all homicides in the city on its website. 

According to an email from a Phoenix police public information officer, 127 homicides from the 223 total homicides in 2022 across the city were cleared by arrest or exceptional means.  Police explain that additional cases were cleared in 2022 from prior years to add to the city's clearance rate.

Nationwide, the FBI reports just 54% of all murders and nonnegligent homicides were cleared in 2020 - the last year for which this data was available.  

That low clearance rate leaves families living through a nightmare.

“Even on that first day, when the detective came, he was very honest, straightforward, saying a lot of these cases don't get solved,” said Tatiana Coffman, whose brother, Dominic Daughtrey, was shot and killed June 3, 2022. 

Police said Dominic was found sitting in his truck parked at the Alta Vista Village Apartments near Grand and 39th Avenues in Phoenix. 

“What was he doing there? And what happened?” his father, David Daughtrey still asks. 

David said police have been transparent with the family, even showing them some surveillance video that captured the shooting. 

“There's a video where somebody just walks up without saying a word and fires three shots,” David told 12News. “Without a name. You're sort of at a dead end.”

Staffing shortages, evidence backlogs and increasing crime

David said the video remains too poor quality for facial recognition software to match any suspects to the case. He said he was told there may have been DNA, but a backlog has caused delays in processing it. 

Silent Witness wouldn’t tell 12News how many anonymous tips they received for Dominic’s case, but so far, nothing has led to an arrest.

“One of the biggest problems they have is trying to find that witness that's willing to go in front of a court and speak about what they saw, what they witnessed,” said Phoenix Police Sergeant Brian Bower, one of the Silent Witness coordinators in Maricopa County.

Dominic Daughtrey’s family believes other, more systemic issues may contribute to the challenges in solving Dominic’s case. 

The I-Team examined Phoenix police data and found officers were called to the block where Dominic was killed more than 400 times in 2022. 

Fourteen of those calls were for shots fired or shootings – including Dominic’s death.

“A crime in a crime-infested area is not going to get priority. And the longer it goes, the less priority it is,” David said. 

In July 2022, one month after Dominic’s murder, 12News reported Phoenix police were short more than 500 officers. Meaning some officers were moved to patrol and away from units doing drug enforcement, family investigations and even violent crime. 

"Who's following up on those investigations? When they take those initial reports, and they don't make an arrest, that starts stacking up on somebody's desk," said retired Phoenix police assistant chief, Andy Anderson at the time. "Because those detectives are overwhelmed, their caseload is higher than it's ever been."

In the last year, the Phoenix City Council has voted to increase police pay to recruit and retain more officers. Still, Dominic’s case remains open.  

“If somebody would do that, they either probably have done it before, and will probably do it again,” David said.  “And nobody should have to go through that, like we have.” 

For Kim Hansen and her family, each day brings new challenges, and she works to honor Rachel’s memory. 

“We've been trying to do things that remind us of her all the time,” Kim said. 

Kim now operates an animal rescue at the family home, something she said. Rachel was always passionate about. Caring for dogs and puppies, even goats and birds. Offering some peace that will never be enough. 

“It has been very difficult trying to figure out how to live life again,” Kim said.  

How you can help 

Police and investigators need tips and information. The best way to help solve these crimes is to contact Silent Witness if you have relevant information. It’s a non-profit organization that serves the Phoenix metro and accepts anonymous tips on serious, violent crimes. 

To submit a tip to Silent Witness, please call (480)WITNESS or 480.948-6377. 

The Arizona Criminal Justice Commission also services crime victims and families through the Crime Victim Compensation and Assistance programs. These programs provide compensation for certain covered expenses, like mental health care and transportation to victims and by providing grants to programs and nonprofits in communities around the state.

To learn more about these programs and what volunteer opportunities might be available in your community, click here.   


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