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‘Our amazing friend, athlete, and student’: Beloved high school cheerleader shot and killed while leaving house party

Desiree Rivas appears in a photograph shared by her high school after she was shot and killed while leaving a

Desiree Rivas appears in her cheerleading uniform in a photograph shared by her high school after she was shot and killed while leaving a house party in May 2023. (Cesar Chavez High School)

A beloved high school cheerleader was gunned down at age 17 over the weekend just as she left a house party in Phoenix.

Desiree Rivas died just after midnight on Sunday. Officers found her outside a residence near 91st Avenue and Lower Buckeye Road with a gunshot wound and little else to go on, according to local Fox affiliate KSAZ. No arrests have been made in the shooting.

“Desiree was a beloved member of our student body and an active member of our spirit line,” Cesar Chavez High School wrote in a Facebook post mourning the teenager’s tragic death on Monday. “She will be deeply missed by all those who knew and loved her. Desiree passed away after being the victim of a senseless act of violence this past weekend. She loved her peers and was a compassionate and caring member of our student community.”

Her cheer team also shared words via social media.

“It is with the heaviest of hearts that I post about the tragic loss of our amazing friend, athlete, and student Desiree,” the CCHS Spirit Line wrote on Instagram. “Our hearts are broken into a million pieces. There will be extra counselors on campus tomorrow to help us all work thru this tremendous loss. May Dessy rest in peace and be surrounded by love and light. We love you, Desiree.”

A neighbor who claimed to have heard gunfire the night of the killing said that multiple shots were fired and that the barrage of bullets sounded as if they were moving – that the location of the shots over time appeared to shift audibly, according to the Arizona Republic. The paper did not name the neighbor.

“She did have friends that did stay behind and assist her, and I was there with her,” the anonymous neighbor reportedly said. “We couldn’t sleep at all last night. I couldn’t sleep at all. I kept thinking about the mother and what she was going through.”

In an interview with KSAZ, neighbor April Stokes offered additional details about the shooting and its immediate aftermath.

“I heard five, maybe six shots, two different guns, you know. It sounded pretty close,” she told the TV station – later adding: “I saw these boys – looked like teenage boys – running from across the street there. From one house to the other.”

Stokes said it was unclear if the two figures she saw running into the night fled in fear or because they had fired the shots.

Dozens of community members came out in honor of the slain girl at a vigil at Cesar Chavez Park on Monday evening.

“She touched so many people,” her father, Danny Rivas, said at the vigil, in comments reported by KXAS. “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. 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.”

Detectives reportedly do not have a suspect in the girl’s homicide, according to the Republic.

In coverage of the memorial by local CBS affiliate KPNX, Danny Rivas remembered his daughter as “a beautiful person and amazing soul.” The grieving father added: “She was a role model to everybody. She was one of the people you wanted to be around.”

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