'I started screaming': Dale King says he didn't brag about shooting Yosif Al-Hasnawi

Dale King says the social media post he made where he appears to mimic holding a gun shortly after Yosif Al-Hasnawi died was directed at someone threatening him, and he wasn't bragging that he had just shot and killed someone.

King has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder in the shooting death of the Brock University student

Dale King, the court heard, cut his hair after he learned police were looking for him. (Court exhibit)

Dale King says the social media post he made where he appears to mimic holding a gun shortly after Yosif Al-Hasnawi died was directed at someone threatening him, and he wasn't bragging that he had just shot and killed someone.

King, 21, was in the witness box Tuesday morning to give his version of events on Dec. 2, 2017. That's when he fired a single shot from a .22 calibre gun that hit Al-Hasnawi in the abdomen.

Al-Hasnawi, a 19-year-old Brock University student, intervened because he saw King and his friend James Matheson accosting an older man, the court has heard. Al-Hasnawi died in hospital about an hour later.

King agrees that he pulled the trigger that night, but says it was self defence. He's pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder, and is three weeks into a superior court jury trial at Hamilton's John Sopinka courthouse.

When Al-Hasnawi called to them outside a Main Street East mosque that night, King said, he seemed aggressive, and didn't seem fazed when King flashed a gun.

"I've never seen anyone react like that to a gun," King said.

Dale King posted this to Instagram two days after Yosif Al-Hasnawi died. (Court exhibit)
(Court exhibit)

In fact, after Matheson punched Al-Hasnawi in the head, Al-Hasnawi chased them, and King shot at him as he was running. Matheson, King testified, said "this guy is fast, holy sh-t" as they were running.

King said he thought Al-Hasnawi might have had a weapon too, like a gun or a knife.

"I thought I saw one of my best friends about to die before my eyes," King said.

"In my mind, the only reason you chase after someone with a gun is because you have one too."

Two days after Al-Hasnawi died, King made a pair of Instagram posts. One is of him appearing to mimic holding a gun. "Insanity will over power steel anyday run up," it said.

'Fresh az haircut'

King said "steel" means a gun, but that post wasn't about the shooting. It was targeted at someone who was threatening him, he said.

King, who court heard has a number of criminal convictions, also posted a selfie with the words "fresh az haircut." He'd cut his hair, he said, because police were looking for him. 

Dale King has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder. (Hamilton Police Service)

They eventually found him at his aunt's apartment in Hagersville. His aunt didn't know he was wanted when she took him in, said King, who is Indigenous. When she saw the story, she said she'd help him turn himself in to Six Nations police.

He was about to do that, he said, when a tactical unit arrived at the apartment.

King's testimony outlined a life full of challenges, starting with being born to alcoholic parents.

The bullets came with the gun

He entered foster care around age two, he said. He's heard various reasons as to why, but one is that his older brother went to school without socks. When workers investigated, they found no food in the house.

King bounced back and forth in the foster care system over the years, living in Niagara, Ottawa and Hamilton. He started smoking pot at age 13, he said, and first tried cocaine at age 16. Crystal meth soon followed.

He bought a gun for protection about a month before the shooting. It cost him "400 and change," he said. The hollow-point bullets came with the gun.

King said he was homeless, and taking meth helped him stay awake all night. In fact, he'd taken some meth with friends the day of the shooting. He and Matheson were also assaulted that day, he said, by someone demanding money and drugs.

King said he got a room at the Budget Inn on King Street East and then went out with Matheson that evening. That's when they came across Paul Cowell shouting to himself near the Cadillac Jax bar, he said. 

'I started screaming'

"That's nothing new in Hamilton," King said. "You see all kinds of characters."

Matheson started imitating the man, King said. Al-Hasnawi saw this, the court has heard, and thought they were going to harm the man, so he shouted at them to divert their attention.

King said he was upset when he heard Al-Hasnawi died.

"I remember I had to sit down," he said. "I kind of screamed a little bit. I grabbed the pillow beside me and I started screaming."

The Crown will cross-examine King Wednesday morning. CBC Hamilton reporter Samantha Craggs is live blogging the trial.

About the Author

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