DCS received several complaints regarding Phoenix group home prior to deadly shooting

Documents show one teen overdosed twice in a week and staff didn't stop residents from sneaking in weapons, guns and drugs into the facility.
Published: Nov. 9, 2022 at 8:29 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- Complaints from the Department of Child Safety for the North Star Independent Living Service Group Home for the last two years show a concerning trend. Arizona’s Family requested the records in December when an 18-year-old former resident was shot and killed. The Department of Child Safety oversees the private Phoenix group home near 19th Avenue and Hatcher Road.

The complaints paint a concerning picture for both the teens that live there and the staff that work there. “It’s been hard,” Trumisha Ben said. Ben’s brother, T’revonsay Sales, was the 18-year-old killed at North Star. “He liked to make jokes, he was always outgoing,” Ben said.

In the weeks after, Arizona’s Family spoke with a former North Star employee who claimed the shooting was part of a bigger problem. At an oversight hearing, state lawmakers questioned DCS’s Director, Mike Faust, about the home. He admitted that three days before the shooting, a staff member found nine guns and drugs and called the police. But he confirmed no one there was charged or even detained.

“He wanted to get out of the group home,” Ben said. North Star is supposed to help teen boys, 16 to 20 years old, move out of the foster system. They have their own rooms and can come and go as they please.

According to DCS records, North Star has had several complaints. In May, DCS put the home on a corrective action plan after a review found only 1 to 2 staffers per 39 clients. The ratio is supposed to be 1 to every 10. In June, documents show the facility hired seven new staff members.

They still received a letter of concern after that. Then, in September, those living at the group home were found using drugs on campus; one teen overdosed twice in a week. Another concern in the DCS documents were residents sneaking weapons, guns, and drugs into the facility, and staffers didn’t stop it. “They should have done better checks on everyone,” Ben said.

In response to questions from Arizona’s Family, a spokesman wrote: “North Star remains fully compliant with all DCS regulations.”

DCS declined our interview request. However, in a statement, they write, “We are committed to and are continuing to work with North Star, law enforcement and the community to resolve any areas of continued concern.”

The City of Phoenix’s Planning and Development Department determined in mid-September that North Star didn’t have the appropriate use permit. However, the City said the property owners have a Disability Accommodation Request under review and that that would help resolve the matter.