2 Hamilton paramedics charged in 2017 death of Good Samaritan

Two Hamilton paramedics have been charged in the 2017 death of a 19-year-old Good Samaritan who police say was killed after trying to stop an altercation.

Witnesses alleged paramedics took too long to treat and transport Yosif Al-Hasnawi

Yosif Al-Hasnawi, 19, was shot and killed in Hamilton last December as he tried to break up a fight, police said. (Al-Mostafa Islamic Centre)

Two Hamilton paramedics have been charged after the death of a 19-year-old Good Samaritan police say was killed while trying to stop an altercation.

Yosif Al-Hasnawi was shot Dec. 2, 2017 trying to help an older man being accosted by two men outside a mosque. 

Police have charged Steven Snively, 53, of Hamilton, on Tuesday, and Christopher Marchant, 29, of Whitby, on Wednesday. Both face charges of failing to provide the necessaries of life. They are scheduled to appear in Hamilton court on Sept. 11.

Niagara police launched a criminal investigation in January to determine how the paramedics handled the call.

The investigation came after bystanders claimed paramedics told Al-Hasnawi he was faking his injuries, and that he'd been shot by a pellet gun.

Patrick Ryerson, who was at the scene that night, says police and paramedics told Yosif Al-Hasnawi he was faking being in pain. (Martin Trainor/CBC)

Police say when paramedics arrived, they didn't take Al-Hasnawi to hospital for 38 minutes. When they did, they took him to St. Joseph's Hospital, rather than Hamilton General Hospital, which is not only the region's trauma centre, but closer to where he was shot. 

Niagara officers handled the investigation to avoid the appearance of conflict of interest. The city and Ontario Ministry of Health are also investigating the conduct of the paramedics.

Chief Bryan MacCulloch from Niagara Regional Police said theirs was "a complex and intricate investigation."

Investigators did extensive canvassing and interviewed more than 60 witnesses, MacCulloch said. Detectives also looked at documents, video and audio recordings, and talked to health-care professionals.

"This was a very difficult and challenging case for our investigators, who will continue to work with the Crown attorney's office during the prosecution phase of this case as it proceeds through the courts," he said.

Al-Hasnawi had been attending a religious service at the Al-Moustafa Islamic Centre in Hamilton's central lower city. He went outside on a break and encountered an older man being accosted. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

Mario Posteraro, president of OPSEU Local 256, said in an email Wednesday that the paramedics "are intent on vigorously defending against these criminal charges."

The union is confident the pair will be cleared of any wrongdoing, he said.

"These precedent-setting criminal charges are game-changers for our paramedic profession and we are confident that when the totality of the evidence is provided, they will be vindicated."

Hamilton Paramedic Service said Thursday it is nearly done with its investigation into Al-Hasnawi's death. It wouldn't say whether the two paramedics were suspended or still on duty.

"In order to maintain the integrity of all the independent investigations into this matter, we are unable to provide details," said acting chief Russell Crocker in a statement.

"It’s been pending for a very long time," says Firas Al Najim, a human rights activist and friend of the Al-Hasnawi family, of the charges. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

Al-Hasnawi's father and two brothers filed a civil lawsuit in January against Hamilton's paramedics. The suit alleges paramedics failed to properly treat the injured man and claims their family has suffered extreme emotional and mental distress. 

The lawsuit also names Hamilton police, St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton and the two men charged in the shooting.

In the statement of claim, the family describes watching Al-Hasnawi "lying on the pavement in pain, holding his stomach and with a clear and visible bloody shotgun wound."

The family is seeking $10 million in compensation. The allegations have not been tested in court.

Family friend Firas Al Najim told CBC News that the paramedics being charged is painful for Al-Hasnawi's already distraught father.

Firas Al Najim and Ahmed Al-Hasnawi hold a photo at a December memorial at Hamilton city hall. (Laura Clementson/CBC)

The investigation has taken six months, which is "a very long time," Al Najim said. "But we feel some kind of justice. At least there are some charges.

"We would think they would be the ones to come and save him, you know what I mean? And help him out. And when they treated him like that, that was very painful for all of us."

Patrick Ryerson lives nearby and saw police and paramedics arrive the night Al-Hasnawi was shot. He said both were telling Al-Hasnawi he was acting.

"They told him it was a pellet wound," he said. "They didn't say it was a gunshot. They said it was a pellet wound, which was ridiculous. Any kind of shot, whether it was pellet or whatever, they should have been right on it," Ryerson said.

Two men are also facing charges in relation to Al-Hasnawi's shooting.

Dale Burningsky King, 19, has been charged with second-degree murder. James Matheson, 20, has been charged with being an accessory after the fact.

About the Author

Samantha Craggs

Reporter

Samantha Craggs is a CBC News reporter based in Hamilton, Ont. She has a particular interest in politics and social justice stories, and tweets live from Hamilton city hall. Follow her on Twitter at @SamCraggsCBC, or email her at samantha.craggs@cbc.ca

With files from Shanifa Nasser