Edmonton

Abdulahi Sharif guilty in Edmonton attack on police officer, pedestrians

A jury has found Abdulahi Sharif guilty of the attempted murder of an Edmonton police officer and four pedestrians in a series of attacks two years ago.

Jury convicts 32-year-old on 5 counts of attempted murder, other charges

Abdulahi Sharif, seen in this photograph after his arrest, was charged with five counts of attempted murder in relation to two vehicle attacks in Edmonton on Sept. 20, 2017. (Court Exhibit/Edmonton Police Service)

A jury has found Abdulahi Sharif guilty of trying to kill an Edmonton police officer and four pedestrians in a series of attacks two years ago.

Sharif, 32, was convicted in Edmonton Court of Queen's Bench Friday on all 11 charges he faced, including five counts of attempted murder. He was also found guilty on four counts of flight from police causing bodily harm and one count of aggravated assault.

After deliberating for almost 10 hours, the jury found Sharif, 32, used his white Chevrolet Malibu as a weapon on the evening of Sept. 30, 2017. His car slammed into Const. Michael Chernyk, who was on special traffic duty near Commonwealth Stadium during an Edmonton Eskimos game.

After Chernyk flew through the air and landed on his back, Sharif calmly strode toward him, pulled out a knife and began to stab the officer in the chest and head. Then he fled on foot.

The jury was able to rely on surveillance video and testimony from Chernyk and other eyewitnesses to decide beyond a reasonable doubt that Sharif intended to kill the police officer.

The jury also decided Sharif intended to kill four pedestrians who were hit by a rented U-Haul van he drove through downtown Edmonton hours after the attack on Chernyk. 

Sharif's car after hitting Const. Michael Chernyk's police vehicle. (Court Exhibit/Edmonton Police Service)

A city-wide search for the attacker had been launched, and Sharif was in the van when he was pulled over at a police checkpoint. After handing over his driver's licence, he took off and began driving toward downtown Edmonton with police in pursuit.

During the high-speed chase, Sharif mowed down two men standing in an alley outside a bar. Moments later he drove onto a sidewalk and struck two women.

Outside court Friday, chief Crown prosecutor Shelley Bykewich thanked the jury members for their time and the attention they paid to the case, calling it "a very difficult task."

She also acknowledged the toll the events of that night have had on the victims. 

"All were going about their lives two years ago," Bykewich said. "They continue to live with the results from that night. We wish them and the city of Edmonton as a whole to have found some solace and closure through this process." 

Motive remains a mystery

Sharif showed no expression in the prisoner's box as the jury foreman delivered all 11 verdicts. Sharif had represented himself at trial without a lawyer. The jury never heard him speak. He didn't call any witnesses or cross-examine Crown witnesses.

The court appointed defence lawyer Greg Lazin an amicus curiae, or friend of the court, to ensure Sharif's rights were protected during the trial. Sharif refused to deal with Lazin. The two men have never spoken.

Crown prosecutor Shelley Bykewich said Sharif's intent was to cause death and mayhem. (Sam Martin/CBC)

"I have not been involved with a case where there has been this level of non-participation," Lazin told reporters outside court.  

Sharif told Justice Paul Belzil he would not co-operate in the preparation of a pre-sentence report.

A sentencing hearing will be held Dec. 12 and 13. Attempted murder carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Sharif is a Somali national who was granted refugee status in Canada in 2012. After he has served his sentence, he will face deportation back to Somalia.

The motive for the attacks remains a mystery. It was initially investigated as a possible act of terrorism, but no terrorism-related charges were laid.

The investigation was led by the RCMP's Integrated National Security Enforcement Team (INSET), and police confirmed at the outset a black ISIS flag was seized as evidence from Sharif's car. The flag was never entered as evidence at the trial. 

In her closing argument, the Crown prosecutor suggested Sharif's intent was to cause death and mayhem. She did not indicate why he had that intent.

About the Author

Janice Johnston is an award-winning journalist in Edmonton who has covered the courts and crime for more than two decades. You can reach her at janice.johnston@cbc.ca or on Twitter at @cbcjanjohnston