Following a fatal shooting at a youth group home in Phoenix in early September, Department of Child Safety director Mike Faust answered questions from legislators on Thursday.
On Sept. 1, Phoenix police received a call around 2 a.m. that someone had been shot at the North Star Independent Living Services group home facility, near 19th Avenue and Mountain View Road, which houses teenagers and young adults ages 16-20.
When police arrived, they located a young man, identified as T'revonsay Sales, 18, suffering from a gunshot wound. He was taken to a hospital where he later died. Phoenix police said that a 17-year-old was arrested in connection to the shooting.
Four weeks later, Faust was questioned by legislators about the incident as well as the role of DCS in safeguarding those who live at the facility.
In recalling the events that led to the shooting, Faust told legislators that someone at the group home facility located "a piece of ammunition and illegal drugs," prompting the administration to call police.
According to Faust, police found and confiscated stolen guns and illicit drugs. He clarified that no one at the group home was charged or detained "relative to that."
Faust said Sales was discharged from the group home. "Discharging" one of the residents means that "they are no longer a resident of that group home."
However, Faust said that Sales returned to the group home "in the middle of the night and is subsequently shot and killed with another stolen weapon."
Police said the 17-year-old was arrested for suspicion of aggravated assault and related weapon charges. He was booked into Maricopa County Juvenile court.
Faust: 'I'll take that responsibility'
Faust told legislators that he understands that someone has to take responsibility for the failures that residents in some group homes have had to endure.
"I have no problem being responsible for this whole thing. If it came down to it and you said, 'Let's change this and make him and that team responsible for juvenile justice and the way this goes,' I'll take that responsibility. Because the kids need something different than they have today."
During the questioning, a statement from a former employee, who remained anonymous, was read. It stated:
"Available support services state youth have access to grocery shopping, banking support, activities once a week, and transportation to and from activities. I quickly came to realize that North Star does not offer any of these services or support to the youth.
"The youth involved in North Star have open access to the community, substance uses such as drugs and alcohol, regular theft on campuses, regular violence on campus. Weapons such as guns and knives and don't have access to behavioral health care."
In response, Faust said he would provide the necessary data to legislators at a later date as well as further action to be taken against North Star as their investigation continues.
Faust spoke on areas he felt could improve not only the North Star group home but all youth group homes in Arizona.
"We've identified a shopping list of things that we can do to make that property and that program better," Faust said. "The physical changes; modifying security staff. Bringing additional security staff in to be on property at all times."
Faust also noted to legislators that North Star had already been in contact with local law enforcement before the Sept. 1 incident to strengthen their programs and establish a better relationship with the community.
"One of the reforms we're looking at is revising the youth who can get into the extended foster care program," Faust said. "If the youth has numerous escalating behaviors, is not engaging in drug services, if they have a substance use issue, if they have aggravated assault or weapons charges we can't let them in the extended foster care program."
This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Fatal shooting at youth group home prompts questions for DCS director