SMOC, state at odds over shooting suspect Friday, April 24, 2009
Dan McDonald 508-626-4416 Metrowest Daily News
FRAMINGHAM -- More than a week after Sahr Josiah was charged with shooting a police officer, questions remain about the how he came to town.

A local social service agency says crucial bits of Josiah's criminal history were withheld in his application to a Deloss Street housing program for young adults at risk of becoming homeless. That information, according to the South Middlesex Opportunity Council, could have disqualified him from the program.

The state, however, suggests nothing was amiss. While declining to speak about individual cases, Department of Youth Services spokeswoman Jennifer Kritz said yesterday her department does not have the authority to divulge juvenile criminal records.

But the fact that Josiah, a Boston native, was in DYS custody suggests he has a troubled past. That department handles juvenile criminals in the state.

Josiah, 22, had lived at 25 Deloss St. for six months before the April 21 shooting of Officer Phillip Hurton, who was responding to a Southside cab robbery that police say Josiah took part in.

The program, run by SMOC, has an in-house manager who helps clients connect with behavioral health services and work force training, and assists them in the search for permanent housing.

SMOC says the 25 Deloss St. program has house rules, which were described as "good neighbor policies," but there is no curfew for people who live at the home.

After the shooting, SMOC released a statement suggesting the state withheld Josiah's juvenile crime record. That information could have led SMOC to reject his housing application.

By the time SMOC ran its own background check and found his criminal history they were faced with a difficult decision. They could have kept Josiah in the program or they could have rejected him, making him at risk of becoming homeless.

SMOC said it thought Josiah would be more of a threat to the community if he were homeless, the agency's director said in a letter published last week in the Daily News.

When he first came to town, the 21-year-old Josiah was about to phase out of state custody because of his age. DYS referred him to SMOC.

Paul Mina, president of the United Way of Tri-County, which does not have a direct stake in the Josiah matter, is encouraging local residents not to blame SMOC.

"What happened was a terrible tragedy, but it wasn't because a social service agency screwed it up," said Mina.

Earlier this week state Rep. Pam Richardson, D-Framingham, who is trying to set up a meeting between SMOC, state officials and perhaps town officials, said, "Clearly the system is not working. Either he was placed there incorrectly or the program was not supervising him correctly."

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