Hamilton police are hailing the bravery of a 19-year-old man who was fatally shot as he helped someone being accosted near his mosque.

'He was a very brave young man.' Det. Sgt. Steve Bereziuk

Yosif Al-Hasnawi was leaving the Al-Mostafa Islamic Centre with his brother when police say he saw two men "accosting" another man around Main Street East and Wentworth Street South. The incident happened around 9 p.m. ET Saturday.

Al-Hasnawi, who was acting as a "Good Samaritan," stepped in to try to stop the culprits, said Hamilton police Det. Sgt. Steve Bereziuk. This started a new confrontation, which led to Al-Hasnawi being shot. Police say he was taken to hospital, where he died about an hour later. 

Yosif Al-Hasnawi

Yosif Al-Hasnawi, 19, was shot and killed outside an Islamic centre when he tried to help someone else, police say. This photo was taken Saturday evening as he recited the Qur'an. (Al-Mustafa Islamic Centre)

Al-Hasnawi was a first-year Brock University medical sciences student who planned to become a doctor, Bereziuk said. He was also a boxer, runner and basketball player. 

"He was an overall nice young man. He was involved in his community, and it's nothing more than a tragedy," Bereziuk said.

"He was a very brave young man" who was "trying to do something heroic," Bereziuk said. "Unfortunately, it resulted in this."

Investigators are still looking into the exact nature of the confrontation, but it appears Al-Hasnawi was helping a stranger.

"He stepped in in an attempt to calm the situation down, to neutralize it, to do the right thing," Bereziuk said. 

"He was being that Good Samaritan."

'He's a hero'

Talib Al-Jalili from the Al-Mostafa Islamic Centre said Al-Hasnawi was at the centre for a religious celebration. 

"After he recited the Holy Qur'an, he took a break and he went outside," Al-Jalili said. That's when "he saw a very unfortunate incident that an old man was harassed by two people," and he intervened.

"This young man, he's a hero."

Al-Hasnawi's family immigrated to Canada from Iraq in 2008, Bereziuk said, and "they're heartbroken" after learning the news. 

Street blocked

Police investigate around Main Street East and Wentworth Street South in Hamilton on Saturday night. (Andrew Collins)

Brock University president Gervan Fearon issued a statement saying he's "shocked and deeply saddened" by Al-Hasnawi's death.

"The university continues to seek further information about the circumstances of this tragedy," he said, "and is reaching out to support Yosif's family."

Al-Hasnawi's death is Hamilton's ninth homicide this year.

Police said they are still looking for the gun and two suspects, as well as the man being accosted when Al-Hasnawi intervened.

The suspects are described as:

  • A white male in his 20s with a medium to darker complexion, black hair and a medium build. His hair was long with a ponytail wrapped at the top of his head. He wore a hood, backpack and jeans.
  • A white male in his 20s with a bald/shaved head. He was shorter than the first suspect and had a light complexion. He was also heavier than the first suspect and wore a hoodie and jeans.

Anyone with information should call Det. Doug Jonovich at 905-546-4863.