PHOENIX — The City of Phoenix’s Neighborhood Services Department is investigating the North Star group home on Mountain View Road where police say a teenage resident was shot and killed by another two weeks ago.
An NSD spokesperson said staff would inspect the group home on Friday for violations.
This comes after a spokesperson for Phoenix Planning and Development said the facility requires a Use Permit and the city does not have one on file.
“We need to make sure that they are in a safe environment," said State Rep. Jennifer Longdon.
Longdon is raising concerns about the North Star group home, which houses foster teens and young adult males between the age of 16 and 20. The facility is permitted to house up to 46 residents at a time.
The DCS-licensed home has been at the center of a murder investigation after police say a minor brought a gun into what is supposed to be a secure facility and shot and killed another resident.
“Guns are clearly an issue. Not just in this facility but overall. And the fact that a 16-year-old can obtain a gun so easily should be shocking for everyone," Longdon said.
The I-Team uncovered guns have been a known issue at the facility. Just days before the shooting, North Star management was aware that an arsenal of weapons was found in one single room.
Phoenix PD issued a search warrant of the home and found nine guns, including a rifle and a weapon illegally converted into a fully automatic firearm.
A North Star spokesperson told 12News they had requested DCS remove all residents connected to the guns but claims DCS only removed one.
Less than three days later, one of the residents that DCS did not remove was shot and killed.
“This is certainly a population of vulnerable adults. These are young people who are aging out of the foster system and are assigned to this facility to learn their independent living skills. So we need to make sure that they are in a safe environment," Longdon said.
Longdon is now working with Phoenix City Councilwoman Debra Stark as the city continues to investigate why the facility did not have the required Use Permit.
Josh Weiss, a North Star spokesperson, released the following statement about the permitting issue:
“We believe we have all the necessary permits and paperwork, but if we learn additional documentation is required we'll work with the proper entities to remedy the issue.”
City and state leaders say they are now planning a meeting and will include law enforcement and DCS to figure out what changes need to be made.
“Do we need to have smaller facilities like this? Do we need to hire more staff at a facility of this size," Longdon said. "There's still due diligence to be done before I could say this is what we need to do.”
State Senator Nancy Barto, who sits on the state's DCS oversight committee, told 12News she was meeting with DCS Director Mike Faust Friday to discuss the issue.
DCS has declined repeated requests for an interview citing an ongoing investigation.
You can read the City of Phoenix’s Neighborhood Services Department's full statement regarding its investigation below:
"The City of Phoenix’s Neighborhood Services Department (NSD) opened a case at the location and will inspect today for violations of the Phoenix Zoning Ordinance. If a violation is found, a Notice of Ordinance Violation will be issued to the owner and all responsible parties. NSD does not impose fines on any entity or property owner. Any fines stem from the judicial process which follows a citation. If a property owner fails to comply with a request from NSD, NSD would first issue a Notice of Ordinance Violation. If that notice expires without compliance, NSD may then issue a civil citation for the code violation, which would be adjudicated in court. If the Phoenix Municipal Court enters a finding of ‘responsible’ for the citation, the court could impose a monetary fine."
Learn more about other 12News investigations by subscribing to the 12News YouTube channel and watching our I-Team playlist.