As her son lay dying in her arms, Shari-Ann Selvey rubbed his neck, kissed his head and begged him to “come back.”
Moments earlier, she’d nearly pulled 14-year-old Devan to safety.
This is Selvey’s recollection of events; police have not discussed these details of the case.
“I was almost grabbing Devan’s arm to get him in the car,” Selvey recalled three weeks after the Oct. 7 attack that claimed her son’s life.
She had been trying in vain to get the Grade 9 student away from the kids chasing him — all part of a group who’d allegedly just pepper-sprayed a friend and who’d long bullied Devan — and away from a girl taunting him to hit her. He stopped running, standing just behind Sir Winston Churchill Secondary School, to address the girl.
“I can’t hit you, I was raised better than that,” he told the girl, Selvey recalls.
Then “everything went to hell,” she said.
A boy came up from behind Selvey, running toward her son. She alleges that he stabbed her son in the back with a knife just once. It was enough to kill him.
“How cowardly can you be?” she said. “Devan didn’t have an opportunity to fight back. He didn’t even have an opportunity to face the kid, have a conversation with him.”
“Why didn’t he stab me and not Devan?”
The incident, which unfolded in Hamilton’s east end, is now widely known across Canada. Locally, it sparked conversations about bullying, its causes, and how schools can stop it.
But Selvey’s account of what happened that day has remained untold.
Shari-Ann Selvey is speaking out now because she wants justice for her son. She’s channelling her anger into anything that she thinks will help prevent a similar incident from happening to another family, including sharing her story.
Thinking back to that cloudy October Monday, Selvey remembers driving to court with plans to file a civil lawsuit against youths who’d been harassing Devan. She said she’d been told by police that was her best option for getting justice against the kids whom she alleges stole her son’s $800 bike, punched his friend and threatened them with a knife on the second day of school. She’d also reported the incident to the school.
Then she got a call from Devan.
He told her one of the boys who’d been bullying him, who was supposed to be suspended, was walking around inside the school. He was scared and he wanted his mom to pick him and his friend up.
She turned the car around and drove to the school, picking up Devan’s friend’s mom on the way.
When they arrived, her friend and her son went to the principal to show him a photo of the suspended boy back in school. The principal said there was nothing he could do, the friend told Selvey. (According to Selvey, the suspended boy is not one of the two people charged in connection with his death.)
She believes the boy was in the school to lure her son and his friend out.
“Which is exactly how it happened,” she said.
By then, everyone was outside the school. The suspended boy was hanging out by the Pat Quinn Parkdale Arena across the street from the school with about nine people — the same group who’d been bothering him, Selvey said. Selvey, Devan, Devan’s girlfriend, Devan’s friend, the friend’s mom and now the friend’s dad, were all also outside.
Shawn Wagar, Devan’s friend’s dad, approached the kids to talk.
There was yelling and someone sprayed a substance — Selvey believes it was bear spray — in Wagar’s direction. The group dispersed.
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Her son ran north, toward the back of the school. Several kids chased him. Selvey followed in her car.
Just after she reached them and exited the car, Devan was stabbed.
The kids ran off, leaving Selvey with her dying son.
Two nearby construction workers approached and began CPR. A Grade 12 girl came out to help and the principal came out too.
“His face went white as a ghost,” Selvey said of the principal.
She said she yelled at him.
“I said, ‘Are you happy now? I told you there was a problem. I told you there was a knife,’” she said, referring to the bike incident allegedly involving a knife. “This didn’t have to happen.”
Her son was pronounced dead in hospital later that afternoon.
Three weeks later, Selvey has spoken in front of media cameras about her grief, she’s stood alongside hundreds of supporters at a vigil in her son’s honour, and, at a heart-wrenching funeral attended by 600 people, she said goodbye.
Her son’s cremated remains now sit inside a wooden box with a car on it — Devan wanted to be a mechanic and planned on taking a mechanics course in second semester — on a table in her living room. Some of his remains are also inside necklaces she distributed to his friends, family and girlfriend.
Since Devan’s death, Selvey has also moved homes — partly to have a fresh start in a place she’s painted in bright colours to represent her hopes for a good future; partly to make sure the bullies who tormented her son can’t find her.
Police have charged two brothers, ages 14 and 18, with first-degree murder in connection with his death. Others were arrested but released unconditionally. Police say they are looking into bullying as part of their investigation.
One light in Selvey’s life: her first grandchild, born to Devan’s older sister, Karissa, on Oct. 20.
The little girl lay sleeping curled up in a bassinet in Selvey’s home Tuesday afternoon.
“So itty-bitty,” Selvey whispered to her.