Buffalo homicide detectives are continuing to investigate whether 13-year-old Jean Sanchez was assisted by anyone else in the killing of 13-year-old Ameer Al Shammari last Friday in Black Rock.
At this point, all of the evidence, including a confession from Sanchez, points to him as the murderer, but detectives are keeping their options open by following up on leads, authorities said Wednesday.
“We are continuing the investigation,” Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda said, but refused to elaborate on any details of the probe.
Police are certain that the chain of events began when Sanchez stole Al Shammari’s cell phone, which he had been given by his parents as a reward for improving in his school work and learning English. The family arrived here about 18 months ago from Iraq.
But authorities, neighbors and friends of the Al Shammaris have all said it is difficult to accept the fact that one youngster could carry out such a heinous act. Despite reports circulating in the neighborhood that other young people might have been involved, no proof has been found to support that.
Sanchez was charged Tuesday with second-degree murder as an adult.
Defense Attorney Paul G. Dell, who has been assigned to represent Sanchez, said he is currently reviewing the allegations in preparation for a felony hearing at 2 p.m. Friday before Buffalo City Court Judge Debra L. Givens.
He declined further comment.
Sanchez’s parents and three siblings have moved out of their Germain Street apartment in Black Rock, one block over from the Al Shammari family on Peter Street, and are keeping a low profile, though the lawyer confirmed he has been in contact with the family. Sanchez is being detained without bail at the Youth Services Detention Center on East Ferry Street.
After luring Al Shammari to an overgrown field off Amherst Street, near Churchill Street, with the promise of returning the phone he had taken, Sanchez allegedly bound Al Shammari’s hands in front with a shoelace and strangled him with another shoelace.
Sanchez, law enforcement officials say, had grabbed the phone from Al Shammari earlier in the day at a park where neighborhood children played soccer, beside the bike and footpath along Scajaquada Creek, not far from Peter Street.
On Saturday, that park might be the site of a candlelight service to honor the memory of Al Shammari and provide the Buffalo community with a chance to express condolences.
Ali Kadhum, executive director of the Iraqi American Society, and Buffalo School District officials are working with the Al Shammaris to finalize details of the service. The time and location are expected to be released by Friday.
“Anyone who would like to support the family, we’d love to see them,” Kadhum said. “Ameer loved to play soccer at that field.”
Members of the Al Shammari family say they have been deeply touched by the community’s outpouring of concern.
“We didn’t know any families when we arrived here, now we see hundreds of people are with us,” said Ihab Al Shammari, Ameer’s oldest brother.
Kadhum said the service will allow Buffalo to come together as one and make a stand against violence.
There is no question of how profoundly hurt the Al Shammaris are from the loss of their youngest member, stunned that such an act could happen here after they had left Iraq to escape violence.
“I look out and see other children going to school and at 4 o’clock wait for Ameer to come home,” said the boy’s father, Ali Al Shammari, Wednesday through another family member who translated his words.
The father said his son was in the process of mastering English and was already dreaming of one day succeeding in a career as a doctor or perhaps engineer.
But now, the father said, he and his family, who are from Baghdad, where several relatives have perished in the civil unrest, are trying to understand how he could have fallen victim to such an evil deed.