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Rosie DiManno: Why the hit-and-run death of 16-year-old Matthew Dreaver should serve as wake-up call

Toronto Star logo Toronto Star 5 days ago Rosie DiManno - Star Columnist
a man in a police car parked in a parking lot: Even the detective investigating the killing of 16-year-old Matthew Dreaver says he was horrified by the video footage of the hit-and-run. © Rene Johnston Even the detective investigating the killing of 16-year-old Matthew Dreaver says he was horrified by the video footage of the hit-and-run.

Editor’s note: The opinions in this article are the author’s, as published by our content partner, and do not necessarily represent the views of MSN or Microsoft.

It can’t be more than 300 metres, from the location behind a Shopper’s Drug Mart where Matthew Dreaver and his friend exchanged words with a pair of strangers in a parked car, and the spot where the 16-year-old was killed minutes later.

By the driver of that car who deliberately struck him. Steered over a grass boulevard at the corner of Cedarvale Avenue and O’Connor Drive in East York. Pointed the vehicle – a four-door SUV of unknown make or model – directly at Dreaver and his 14-year-old pal. Left the teenager for dead alongside the Kiwanis outdoor pool.

Flush on, knocking Dreaver over from behind.

Only by the grace of God did Dreaver’s friend – who can’t be identified because of his age – avoid the same fate. Three feet away, maybe, from the car traveling at high speed.

“He just managed to avoid being killed himself, absolutely,” says Det. Leslie Dunkley, who’s investigating the killing.

That friend knelt down beside Dreaver, would have seen the life drain out of his friend’s eyes before emergency responders arrived. Dreaver was already vital signs absent when they got there, dead of his catastrophic injuries.

And for what? Because of cross words, because of attitude, because of a murderous rage? Whatever narrative the traumatized 14-year-old has given to police, the homicide investigators won’t reveal because it’s evidence.

The confrontation, around 2 a.m. Monday, could have ended in that vast otherwise empty parking lot behind Shopper’s with no harm befalling anybody. And what were a pair of young teens doing out so late at night? Did their parents even note their absence from home? The boys lived nearby.

Both teens, police say, walked away from the original scene. But they were confronted by the suspects – driver and passenger – again, not far distant. Then the boys were chased, the SUV at their heels, though it’s unclear down which suburban streets the pursuit unfolded, in a quiet and leafy neighbourhood, bits of police tape strung here and there.

Until they ran out of road.

Just stop for a moment and imagine that – the terror of the boys, the heedless fury of their pursuer. Because that’s how callous, hardened to consequences, many have become. Take a life, what of it?

A 16-year-old boy is dead and two males are wanted for first-degree murder.

In the same week that a 14-year-old boy was fatally stabbed outside his Hamilton school, in front of his mother.

In the same week that another 14-year-old of no fixed address – no fixed address for God’s sakes – walked into a Toronto east end gas station and a mini-mart, a half-hour apart, wielding a large knife, demanding cash from the cash register, grabbing smokes and leaving.

In the same week a 16-year-old was charged with second-degree murder in the stabbing death of a Brampton father who’d confronted a group of teens breaking into cars near his home.

In a year where, in Toronto, murder victims have been 18 years old, 17 years old, 16 years old. Shot, stabbed, beaten, ambushed. And rolled under the wheels of a car.

There was a time when such killings would have shocked the city. Not anymore. It’s all become so damn commonplace. But wake the hell up. These are children being murdered, kids who may have done nothing more than made a face or mouthed off or looked at somebody the wrong way.

“The accused are getting younger and the victims are getting younger,” says Leslie Dunkley. “It’s unbelievable.”

The violence is getting ever more casual and reckless and pitiless. As if the whole world has gone mad and Toronto engulfed in the flames of this senseless savagery. “They didn’t know each other,” says Dunkley of the victims and the perpetrators. “Total strangers.”

The most difficult killings to solve, when there’s no apparent connection and the motive so frail.

“I’ve been on homicide for eight years,” Dunkley told the Star on Wednesday. “I’ve investigated homicides where someone stepped on another guy’s toe or looked at someone the wrong way, next thing you know they’re being shot and killed.

“A love triangle situation, jealousy, revenge, and of course we all know about the gang activity. This is the problem and this is what’s happening. Stabbings, shootings, beatings. It’s hard — the lack of value for life that’s out there.

“There’s just no rhyme or reason for these things.”

Except there are reasons, as shabby as they may be. The violence is rational for some people, their de facto response to any old situation, in a night club or a public housing complex or a park or a playground. Too many young men packing heat, coalescing around their own shared criminal values, what they’ve learned about how to man-up, how to chase easy money, how to avenge.

But even a cop like Dunkley, who’s seen it all, cringed at the video footage investigators obtained of Dreaver being run down in cold blood. Video so graphic in its horror that police have released only a few seconds of it, to show the car. Technicians are trying to enhance the images pages, hopefully to identify the vehicle’s make and model. They’ve not yet been able to discern a licence plate number.

“It’s horrible. It’s one of the worst things I’ve ever seen. Very disturbing, very distressing.”

A hit-and-run, yet of apparent malice and intent. Police are asking body shops in the GTA to let investigators know if they come across a vehicle matching the admittedly vague description – black, four-door SUV — if any such car is brought it with front-end damage. “We’ve been getting tips.”

Homicide No. 55, was Dreaver. But so many more victims and would-be victims and the wounded – 358 shootings, 530 victims, as of Oct. 6.

“So sudden, to get to that point…” says Dunkley of how quickly the incident with Dreaver and his friend escalated.

Dunkley had told reporters on Tuesday: “We know the suspect vehicle patrolled the area for 15 minutes, and they interacted with some members of the community.”

Anyone who spoke to the suspects, anyone who may have surveillance camera evidence that captured the attack or any stage of contact between the victims and the suspects, are urged to contact police at 416-808-7400 or Crime Stoppers.

Because somebody knows. Somebody always knows.

Rosie DiManno is a columnist based in Toronto covering sports and current affairs. Follow her on Twitter: @rdimanno

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