It has been “all hands on deck” for the major crime unit as Hamilton Police investigate the fatal stabbing of 14-year-old Devan Bracci-Selvey outside Sir Winston Churchill Secondary School on Monday.
The complex investigation has meant having up to 11 homicide detectives working on the case, said case manager Det. Sgt. Steve Bereziuk.
“Our entire homicide office is working on this,” he said.
It’s not because this case matters more than any of the other ongoing homicide investigations in the city. Rather, there is a “huge influx of information,” including about a dozen witnesses being interviewed each day.
There is one detective assigned full time to comb through cellphone and surveillance video of the crime. The homicide detectives have also drawn on other units for expertise.
The case is further complicated because those involved and most of the witnesses are kids and want a parent with them, he said. “Youth interviews are very complex and sensitive.”
There has also been a huge number of comments on social media from people claiming to know what happened. Facts needs to be separated from rumour and speculation.
Two teens — a 14-year-old and an 18-year-old — are charged with first degree murder. The 14-year-old cannot be identified because of the Youth Criminal Justice Act, with the publication ban extending to the 18-year-old.
The teens were arrested near the scene Oct. 7 after Bracci-Selvey was stabbed behind his high school during a confrontation around 1:20 p.m. that Monday afternoon.
Police have been careful with the information they release, in large part because the case is before the courts and they cannot say anything that could identify the accused.
Bereziuk refused to comment on details of the arrest, crime scene or number of witnesses who watched the brazen daytime stabbing. But Bereziuk has shared is that it’s the 14-year-old who’s alleged to have wielded the knife. Both teens are charged because police allege there was some element of pre-planning.
The victim’s mom, Shari-Ann Selvey, said her son was being bullied and called her to the school because people were bothering him. She watched helplessly as he was fatally stabbed.
Bereziuk said police are investigating whether bullying was a factor in the homicide.
While it’s important investigators know what was going on in Bracci-Selvey’s life before his death, ultimately it’s their job to figure out events specific to the homicide, he said.
“A big question in this case is the why? We know the who, what, where, when,” Bereziuk said. “We are investigating his life, his background and we want to know … does bullying fall into that? It certainly could.”
Bracci-Selvey’s mom has said her son had been bullied since the start of the school year. She said had raised the issue multiple times with the school.
Bereziuk said the only record of police being called was a Sept. 4 report that Bracci-Selvey’s bicycle had been stolen.
There is no evidence that teens charged in the murder, or two 16-year-olds held for questioning and released, were involved in the bike theft, Bereziuk said.
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Shawn Wagar, whose son was close friends with Bracci-Selvey, told The Spectator he went to the school at least four times to complain about his son and Bracci-Selvey being bullied.
He got a call the day of the stabbing to come to the school. He tried to act as an intermediary, but things were out of control and he was pepper sprayed, he said. He went into the school to clean his eyes. Soon after Bracci-Selvey was stabbed.
The stabbing was captured on video that has been seized by police.
“Video remains a huge part of the investigation,” Bereziuk said.
It’s not clear if any video was ever posted online, but police ask anything found be reported immediately.
During the investigation homicide detectives have had help from various other police units including east end patrol and detectives officers, victims services, the school and youth officers, ACTION (who found the knife alleged to be the murder weapon near the scene), forensic unit and the tech crime unit.
The tech crime investigators have been helping comb through the vast number of comments on social media, looking for witnesses.
“I caution people about social media and believing everything you read,” Bereziuk said, adding that police cannot rely on anything people hear, only things they directly saw or heard.
But social media is also a challenge for investigators because they don’t have access to private messages.
“We don’t have magic spyglass into the social media world,” he said. That’s why it’s important for anyone who sees anything to call police.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Det. Mike McNaughton at 905-546-4123.
To remain anonymously, contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 or crimestoppershamilton.com.