The Washington Post reports the incident happened at Jul. 12 at the center, founded by One-n-Ten. Initially it was believed the fire started over a “combination of improperly stored rags and batteries mixed with a hot, ventilated room,” Rob McDade, Phoenix Fire Department captain told reporters, but camera surveillance revealed a different story.
The culprit, suspected to be Darren William Beach Jr., 26, is seen walking to the center with a gasoline can. After walking into a back room, cameras catch him spilling gasoline on the floor as the room lights up in flames. The Phoenix Fire Department announced Wednesday (Jul. 26) that the incident will now be treated as arson, given the new findings.
Executive director Linda Elliott of One-n-Ten shared her disappointment with reporters after finding out it was one of their own. “Someone that you’ve provided services to and helped out, you just would not expect to come back to your center and do this sort of thing,” Elliot said. She mentioned her shock when her and other employees watched the footage and immediately recognized his face.
“Many of them knew this young man, and this is their safe place,” Elliot said. “Someone comes and burns it down … that’s traumatic.”
Beach Jr. attended the center that caters to teens dealing with mental health and identity woes in 2013. Once he turned 25, he aged out of the system. Around for 24 years, the center sees up to a 1,000 people a year. A new location will open in September.