Teen laid to rest as police charge 13-year-old with murder

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Police arrested a 13-year-old boy overnight, hours before the teen he allegedly murdered over a cell phone was laid to rest.

Tuesday morning, friends and family gathered to say a final goodbye to 13-year-old Ameer Al Shammari, whose body was found Saturday at an old golf park on Amherst Street in Black Rock.

Ameer’s family came to America from Iraq around a year and a half ago in search of a better life. The same people who were there to support them during their transition to life in Buffalo were there to support them in their grief. The Iraqi American Society says there are around 3,000 people in the Iraqi community in Buffalo.

They are connected to Ameer. That could have been their child. Ameer was a loveable child; he was a good boy. I spent a considerable amount of time around him and his family so I know that about him I know that his family is a good family – Woman who attended the funeral

Ameer was a seventh grader at Waterfront Elementary School. He had recently done well in school and his parents had rewarded him with a new iPhone.

The young teen was last seen on Friday after he left home to head to a friend’s house. Witnesses told family members that another boy took Ameer’s phone, and that had Ameer had pursued. He was found dead the next day by a man out walking his dogs.

Police arrested 13-year-old Jean Sanchez on Tuesday, who they say confessed to the killing and told officers the murder had been over a cell phone. Sanchez pleaded not guilty to second degree murder. He is being charged as an adult.

Sources say there may be indications of sexual assault and that Ameer was choked with a hoodie string.

Though there had been initial concern that a bullying situation at Ameer’s school had escalated into this situation, News 4 has learned Sanchez does not attend Waterfront Elementary and that the bullying situation there had been resolved prior to Ameer’s murder.

According to the Buffalo School District, Sanchez was a student at Bilingual Academy #33. He lived a block away from Ameer on Germain Street.

Mayor Byron Brown and Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda say tips from the community played a crucial role in identifying Ameer’s alleged killer. There is also vital surveillance video from a police camera at Amherst and Peter that aided detectives.

Authorities have not released any details about how Ameer was killed, but Derenda did say, “It was not a good scene.” He says detectives worked around the clock to make this arrest.

Ameer is being remembered as a friendly, communicative child, whose academic achievements began soaring after winter break. School officials say the teen had been showing artistic talent while growing leaps and bounds in mastering math skills.

Waterfront Principal David Hills said Ameer would always greet the him at the bus and say, “Have a good night Mr. Hills.”

“Ameer was a friendly, hardworking young man that when he did have any trouble with his peers he came right to adults to make sure it was resolved. He trusted us to take care of it and was very open with us and kept a clear line of communication. And any issues that did come up were completely resolved,” Hills said.

According to the Erie County District Attorney’s Office, a defendant who is 12-years-old or younger can not be charged as an adult. Sanchez is 13-years-old old, and the DA’s Office says defendants who are 13-year-old face a minimum of five years and a maximum of nine years to life in prison if convicted of second degree murder.

The minimum increases to seven years when the defendant is 14- or 15-years-old. And a defendant who is 16-years-old or older would face a minimum of 15 years to life behind bars.

According to attorney Paul Cambria, of Lipsitz, Green, Scime and Cambria, just because Sanchez was initially charged as an adult doesn’t mean it will stay that way.

“First of all, you have to start as a defense lawyer in having the person analyzed from a mental standpoint. What’s his real mental age? Is he 13 and fairly sophisticated of is he 13 and really an infant in the brain department, if you will? And if so, then I think you have to use that in having your discussions with the District Attorney,” he explained.

Cambria is not representing Sanchez in this case, but offered News 4 his legal analysis of this uncommon case.

Eric Smith was 13-years-old when he murdered a little boy in Savona 20 years ago. He was eligible for parole after nine years but has been denied six times, the most recent denial coming this year.

Child psychologist Dr. Kenneth Condrell says Sanchez’s past likely has its own story.

“Children are capable of killing when they have been raised in a home of violence when they have been deprived, neglected, abused, and rejected. You turn children into young sociopaths,” he said.

Dr. Condrell says four-fifths of children who have murdered come from homes with domestic violence. He says children who have been mistreated from an early age can become very dangerous and it’s hard to rehabiliate them.

“If you’re 12 or 13 and have no conscience and you have a history like I just described the prognosis, the outlook, is very, very poor. They’ll probably spend the rest of their lives in prison,” he stated.

Jean Sanchez is being held at the East Ferry Detention Center without bail.

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