On July 12, 2017 around 11 a.m. — a bright and sunny day in Phoenix, Arizona — 26-year-old Darren William Beach Jr. walked up to the local LGBT youth center carrying a red plastic gasoline container. He had used the center’s services since 2013 and had dropped in and out of its programs until eventually aging out of them at age 25.
But even though he’d reportedly used services at other Phoenix community organizations since then, he wasn’t returning to the LGBT youth center on July 12 for any help — he wanted only to burn it down.
A video camera captured his crime: He stepped into the center, began pouring gas onto its floors and materials. As he exited, closing the door behind him, flames shot from the door to the walls, quickly engulfing the room in fire and smoke.
Here’s video of the arsonist who burned down Phoenix’s LGBTQ Youth Center
The blaze completely destroyed the center. The organization that ran the center, one•n•ten, lost thousands of dollars in electronic equipment, food and camping equipment. They had to abandon the building and move to a temporary location at the Parsons Center for Health and Wellness in downtown Phoenix to continue assisting at-risk LGBTQ youth.
Before viewing the video, investigators though that the building had burned down due to “improperly stored rags and batteries mixed with a hot, unventilated room that may have led to spontaneous combustion.”
But when the center’s staff members saw Beach Jr.’s face, they recognized him immediately and felt “total shock.”
“This news hurts,” the center’s executive director Linda Elliott said. “Obviously this young man has issues and needs help. 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.”
Luckily, the youth center had already begun construction on a new center which will be completed in early September. Nevertheless, they’ve pushed an online fundraising campaign to help restore their lost materials.
Phoenix police are offering a $1,000 reward for anyone with information leading up to Beach Jr.’s arrest. People can call Phoenix police at (602) 262-6151.
This is the 3rd arsonist attack on an LGBTQ center in 18 months
This marks the 12th attack on an LGBTQ center in the U.S. since Feb. 9, 2016 and is the third to use fire. Strangely, these attacks sometimes come not from anti-LGBTQ foes but from members of the LGBTQ community.
On July 7, 2017, an arsonist burned down a black LGBTQ center in Dallas. No suspect or motive has been identified in that attack.
As of March 2017, we counted at least 10 attacks on LGBTQ community centers around the U.S.. This most recent attack marks the 12th in the last 18 months.
Featured image by RonTech2000 via iStock