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SPECIAL REPORT: Youth gun violence in Yuma

YUMA, Ariz. (KYMA, KECY) - Fresh flowers and messages of love adorn the sidewalk where 18-year-old Fernando Islas was killed on November 21, 2023.

Islas' Honda Civic crashed into a power line near 24th Street and 8th Avenue after he was shot in his car.

“I couldn't believe it. Like I said, I had just spoken to him and, you know, it was within like 30 minutes of me hanging up on the phone with him that, you know, I, I found out that he was killed, " said Rita Islas, the mother of Fernando Islas.

Six months earlier in May 2023, a weekend house party turned fatal when over 30 rounds were fired leaving five injured and two dead, including 19-year-old Danny Garcia - one of Islas' closest friends.

The youngest victim in this shooting was 15 years old.

Reporter Zackary Moran-Norris interviewed Thomas Garrity, the Chief of Police for the Yuma Police Department, where he asked how minors are getting ahold of these firearms.

"A lot of different ways. Recently we had a case last year where we had an adult that was buying the guns for them. One of the concerning ones is when they're stealing them from their parents. Arizona is a Second Amendment state and a lot of people own firearms and the kids will be stealing them, ” said Chief Garrity.

A recent report by the Arizona Department of Health Services finds that shootings are the leading cause of death of teens between ages 15 and 17 in Arizona.

The report also says that 59 children died of firearm-related injuries in 2022, which is a slight increase from the year prior.

Chief Garrity said that roughly 20 percent of all local shootings involve someone under 21.

Reporter Zackary Moran-Norris asked Chief Garrity whether or not these shootings are related to gang conflicts.

“So that's a tricky question. And, you know, not to dance around the subject is that we may have somebody who's a gang member - they commit a shooting, but it may be about personal reasons and not for the gang. Is there gangs? Yes there are gangs, ” said Chief Garrity.

News 11 got a rare look inside the Yuma Police Department's evidence locker where firearms seized from crime scenes are held.

“If it’s linked to a crime like a shooting or a homicide or something like that, the gun is rendered safe, it is brought in here, it is logged in, then it is sent to evidence to be processed. They’re going to look for blatant prints, they’re going to look for any DNA, any blood, or stuff like that. Then they’re going to test fire the gun and that’s going to be entered into the NIBIN, which is a national database. So we can check to see if this gun was used in another crime, ” said Sergeant Lori Franklin with the Yuma Police Department.

With a few exceptions, the law in Arizona states that you must be 21 years old to buy a handgun from a licensed dealer and 18 years old to buy a long gun.

Arizona does not require gun owners to pass a background check or register a gun when purchased privately.

Article Topic Follows: Special Reports

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Zackary Moran-Norris

Zackary Moran-Norris joined KYMA in July 2023 as a weekend reporter. Send him your story ideas to


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