A man was caught on camera Weds. setting a Phoenix, Ariz. LGBT youth center on fire. However, police told ABC 7 it’s “not a hate crime,” and it does appear to be something else entirely.
In today’s America this feels reassuring in a strange way. Given the increase in hate crimes since Donald Trump didn’t win the popular vote, police and news stations likely want to stave off fear and panic whenever they possibly can. Still, we never seem to see Boy Scouts or NRA offices getting set on fire.
Here’s a screen shot ABC 7’s original post on Facebook (which they’ve since changed).
The video camera footage shows a young man with a can of gasoline sauntering into the One.n.Ten LGBT youth center with a gas can. He then splashed the flammable liquid around the floor of the main room, lit it on fire, and left. ABC 7 reports no one got hurt, but a lot of furniture, supplies, and office equipment got torched in the fire. Yet this appears to have been more of an act of bitterness or insanity than hate for LGBT people.
Police believe the suspect used to be a client at the youth center, but aged out of eligibility when he turned 25.
On Thursday, AZFamily.Com added the man has been identified as 26-year-old Darren Beach, Jr. While talking with reporters, Linda Elliot from the LGBT youth center said she and her colleagues are “shocked.”
“We were shocked and dismayed and hurt. It’s a youth who we’ve helped over the years and who had never shown this kind of behavior in the past.”
LGBT youth between ages 12 to 17 are at a high risk of homelessness, which makes them highly vulnerable. Between 20 and 40 percent of homeless youth identify as gay, lesbian, transgender, or questioning their sexuality, according to the National Council on State Legislatures. Sadly, the main reason these young people wind up out on the street because their parents reject them and kick them out.
While there’s no excuse for committing arson, imagine how it feels to be kicked out of the only support system you have because you’ve just turned 25. Obviously, Darren Beach was not ready to be out on his own. Our nation doesn’t even provide enough resources for youth, the homeless, or mentally ill in general, let alone homeless, mentally ill LGBTQ youth and those who age out of the system but still lack the skills and resources needed to cope.
In a statement on their website, One.n.Ten announced they’re moving to a new location and asking for help and support from the larger community. They also said they’d noticed no sign that the man would commit arson.
Obviously this young man has issues and needs help. he began utilizing one-n-ten’s services beginning in 2013 and aged out of our programs in early 2016 once he turned 25 years old. We also understand he had sought services at other organizations throughout the Valley.
We had no warning signals from him throughout his time with us. There was nothing to let on that he had anything against our organization.
This doesn’t just happen to young LGBTQ adults either. In 2015, more than 20,000 kids aged out of the foster care system. In many cases, their foster families can no longer afford to keep them past age 18 (after which they no longer receive a stipend and other benefits). These young people often lack the emotional and practical skills needed to attend college or get a job, and fall between the cracks.
While it’s a relief to know this likely is an isolated incident that doesn’t signal further attacks against LGBT people, we should still find it alarming. We are failing our youth. Young people — especially those who are non-white, female, and LGBTQ — need a lot more support than we’re giving them if we want them to be healthy, happy, and productive adults and citizens.
Watch: Security camera footage catches Darren Beach setting fire to the One.n.Ten LGBT youth center.
Featured image: Video screen grab, ABC 7 via Facebook.