|Framingham selectmen question how suspected cop shooter ended up in town||Wednesday, April 22, 2009|
|Dan McDonald 508-626-4416||Metrowest Daily News|
FRAMINGHAM -- With a Framingham police officer still recovering from a gunshot wound to the face, selectmen are looking for answers regarding how the alleged shooter, a Boston native with a violent past, was allowed to navigate the state and local social services and land in town.
Police say Sahr Josiah, 22, of 25 Deloss St. shot Officer Phil Hurton multiple times on the night of April 14 after a taxi cab robbery on Framingham's Southside.
One of the bullets shattered Hurton's jaw. Josiah fled into woods behind a convenience store. The subsequent manhunt and investigation has cost the town at least $30,000 and could cost $50,000 when all is said and done, Town Manager Julian Suso told selectmen.
Originally from Boston, Josiah was brought to Framingham through the state's Department of Youth Services. That agency deals with juvenile criminals and referred Josiah to the South Middlesex Opportunity Council. That nonprofit agency, which is headquartered on Howard Street, placed Josiah, who allegedly was facing homelessness, into a housing program at 25 Deloss St.
At the board's meeting last night, selectmen had more questions than answers regarding the screening process of SMOC, DYS, and the 25 Deloss St. program.
Selectman Jason Smith was not pleased with an apparent communication breakdown that allowed Josiah to fall through the cracks and land in Framingham without the police department's knowledge.
"If someone's going to be housed in Framingham with a criminal background like that, our chief of police should damn well know who that person is and where they stay and that's one of the problems with what has transpired," said Smith.
Selectman Charles Sisitsky suggested the board, "demand state agencies" be more accountable with how such social programs are run and "how they dole out money to these nonprofits to provide these services."
He suggested the board push for a report on what kind of oversight the agencies have.
Selectman Laurie Lee suggested an understanding of the oversight that goes on internally at such agencies would also be beneficial. She wanted to know what happens to individuals once they are in Framingham and in the care of such programs.
State Rep. Pam Richardson, D-Framingham, is trying to arrange a meeting with representatives of the Executive Office of Human Services, Department of Youth Services, SMOC, and the town, said Selectman Dennis Giombetti.
Selectman Ginger Esty suggested the town look into whether 25 Deloss St. or similar properties, fall under the town's lodging house bylaw.
"What are these houses and how do they relate to this lodging house bylaw?" she asked.
SMOC is now embroiled in a federal lawsuit with four of the five selectmen, among other town officials. SMOC's complaint alleges a network of town luminaries attempted to block expansion of its social service programs.
Town Meeting will consider a $350,000 special appropriation later this month to continue to fund the legal defense of town officials. That legislative body has already given the go-ahead to $400,000 worth of special appropriations for the case previously.
Josiah's arrest last week provided fuel for SMOC critics, of which there are many in town. One of the main allegations: the agency imports violent criminals from outside Framingham into town.
In a letter released last week, SMOC Executive Director James Cuddy said SMOC admitted Josiah to its program because the state told his agency the 22-year-old had no adult criminal record and had posed no problems during his stint under DYS custody. However, that turned out to be inaccurate, as Cuddy alleges SMOC conducted its own background check and found Josiah had a violent juvenile history.
Had SMOC known that beforehand, Cuddy says the agency would have rejected him.
Regardless, by the time Josiah had entered the program, SMOC, faced with putting him on the streets where he could have posed more of a danger to the community, decided to allow him to stay, says Cuddy.
Now, in the aftermath of the first police shooting in eight decades, Selectman Smith, one of the defendants in the federal lawsuit, will sit down with SMOC officials inside the Memorial Building at 4 p.m. today to discuss the Deloss Street home.
In other business last night, the board elected Esty to serve as chairwoman of the board by a 3-2 vote.
Selectmen Sisitsky and Giombetti were the dissenting votes. She replaces Smith as head of Framingham's highest elected board.
The chairman moderates public discussion at the selectmen's meeting and sets the board's meeting agenda.
Lee and Sisitsky were unanimously selected as vice chairwoman and clerk, respectively.
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