Teenage girl killed while leaving Phoenix graduation party; $12K reward offered for arrest

No arrests have been made after a teenage girl was shot and killed in a neighborhood near 91st Avenue and Lower Buckeye Road, Phoenix police said Sunday, May 14.

Officers were called just after midnight and found a 17-year-old Desiree Rivas outside a home with a gunshot wound. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

Investigators say Rivas was leaving a graduation party when she was shot. No other details have been released about a possible suspect or a motive behind the shooting.

A $12,000 reward is being offered for information leading to an arrest.

"All we ask is that you do the right thing to come forward with information that will help us find out exactly what occurred and to give some kind of closure to Desiree's family," said FBI Assistant Special Agent Phillip Bates.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Silent Witness at 480-WITNESS.

"We know somebody has to have some sort of pictures or video evidence before the incident occurred," said Phoenix Police Sgt. Brian Bower. "Whether it was two minutes before or two hours before."

Desiree's family 'determine to find justice’

On June 1, Desiree's family came forward to share her story and hopefully find some answers.

"She was going to be 18 this year," said Desiree's father, Danny Rivas. "We were strict parents raising her, and she turned out to be a beautiful young lady, and we were letting go of the reigns, and she never came home."

"She would give, she would give the best Mother's Day message to me," said Desiree's mother, Vanessa Gonzales. "She would write a whole paragraph, and I'm never gonna get that again."

"They took our beautiful Desiree, so we're here and determined to find justice," said Desiree's aunt, Melissa Rivas.

"It devastates me, and all of us, that her life was cut short before she even got the opportunity to actually live," said Desiree's aunt, Jacqueline Lopez. "Before she truly got the chance to shine."

Life lost too soon

Family and friends gathered on May 15 to honor the young life lost too soon. There were well over a hundred people, maybe even 200, at the vigil.

Rivas went to Cesar Chavez High School and was an avid cheerleader. Her coach and team were in attendance Monday night.

There were candles, flowers, and pictures. Everyone brought balloons and let them go in her honor.

The school will have extra counselors and social workers on hand this week to help students deal with the loss.

"She touched so many people. I mean, you never know how relationships are at school. They come home, and they don't talk about it because they're doing homework and stuff like that," her father Danny Rivas said at the vigil. "This brought my spirits up a little bit. I have to make it through this week to make sure that everything goes well for her because I want to send her off properly."

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Neighbors express shock, concern

People who live in the area say they heard the gunshots.

"I was in the bed and I heard these gunshots, and they were loud. It seems like they were right in my yard. They were so loud," said April Stokes. "I was scared to get up because I didn’t know where they were coming from, since they sounded so close."

"I heard five, maybe six shots, two different guns, you know. It sounded pretty close," said one man. "I wasn’t able to sleep with the chopper up, going around for about five hours or so."

Right after the gunshots, Stokes said she noticed something outside her window.

"I saw these boys – looked like teenage boys – running from across the street there. From one house to the other," said Stokes.

It remains unclear if they were running from gunshots, or were involved in the deadly incident.

One neighbor, who did not want to be identified, said they were shocked by what happened.

"It really hurt me to know that something like that happened so close to my home," said the neighbor. "We couldn’t sleep at all last night." 

Where the shooting happened: