Defence admits Dale King fired the shot that struck 'Good Samaritan' Al-Hasnawi

The second-degree murder trial for Dale Burningsky King, the accused in the shooting death of Good Samaritan Yosif Al-Hasnawi, began today.

Court heard that the accused carried a gun daily for self defence

Yosif Al-Hasnawi, pictured above, was shot and killed in Hamilton on Dec. 2, 2017. Dale Burningsky King is on trial for second-degree murder. (Al-Mostafa Islamic Centre)

The defence for Dale Burningsky King is admitting that he was the one who fired the bullet that struck Good Samaritan Yosif Al-Hasnawi, in December 2017.

King's trial on a charge of second-degree murder in the fatal shooting began Wednesday at Hamilton's John Sopinka Courthouse with an opening statement from the Crown and the first witnesses.

But the legal issue of identity is no longer on the table in the Superior Court trial. Both the Crown and the defence agree that King shot his gun and the bullet struck Al-Hasnawi in the lower abdomen, piercing a major artery and vein.  

In an agreed statement of facts, the jury heard that King was in possession of a .22 calibre Derringer handgun on Dec. 2, 2017 — the day of the shooting. They also heard that King had purchased this gun for his personal security and carried it daily in the weeks leading up to this day. 

The mother of Al-Hasnawi gave a short sob as assistant Crown attorney Brian Adsett read her son's time of death — just before 10 p.m. — in the opening statement. 

In his opening statement, Adsett says that on the night of the shooting, Al-Hasnawi, a 19-year-old Brock University student, stepped outside a Main Street East mosque with his brother and two other boys, and could hear two people making fun of a man for how he was walking. 

When Al-Hasnawi yelled across to them to find out what they were doing, according to Adsett, the two people, King and Matheson turned their attention to the group. 

The Crown said that King "flashed a small silver handgun as he spoke" and that Matheson "sucker-punched" Al-Hasnawi, who then chased after them, followed by his brother and another boy. 

The confrontation led to Al-Hasnawi being shot. Paramedics responded, although two of them — Steven Snively of Hamilton and Christopher Marchant — are charged with failing to provide the necessaries of life. They'll face trial in January.

During the proceedings, King, now 21 and dressed in a white button-down dress shirt, mostly looked straight ahead, with the exception of a small wave to what appeared to be some family members. 

Ambulance delay 'abnormal' says doctor

The first witness Wednesday was Dr. Andrew Healey, an emergency room doctor at St. Joseph's hospital where Al-Hasnawi was transported.

Healey spoke about two calls received from the paramedics who attended the scene. The first call reported that they had a confused patient, Al-Hasnawi,with a fast heartbeat who was believed to have been shot by a BB gun. 

The second call reported that the patient had become more confused, had a falling heart rate, and become unresponsive. 

Healey added that this change was a "pre-mortal event — something that happens before you die."

When Al-Hasnawi arrived at the hospital, Healey said he had no pulse. He also said that Al-Hasnawi's chances of survival were in the "single digit percentage." 

Firas Al Najim, human rights activist and Yosif Al-Hasnawi's younger brother, Ahmed Al-Hasnawi hold a photo of Yosif Al-Hasnawi at a memorial at Hamilton city hall. (Laura Clementson/CBC)

While the ambulance arrived at the scene at 9:01 p.m., it didn't leave until 9:30 p.m.

According to Healey, Al-Hasnawi did not get into his care at St. Joseph's, "the backup trauma centre", until 9:39 p.m. 

Healey noted that bringing Al-Hasnawi to St. Joseph's, as well as the delay in time, was "atypical." He could not confirm whether Hamilton General Hospital was closer or farther from where Al-Hasnawi was shot.

But the delay was pronounced enough for him to ask the medical director of emergency services, Dr. Michelle Welsford, to review the case, along with why the victim was sent to St. Joseph's. In the past 15 years working in Hamilton, Healey has asked for similar reviews only three times, including this one. 

Healey emphasized that since he is not a paramedic, he would not assume an understanding of the scene, as it would be unfair to them.  

Defence lawyer Jonathan Shime also asked Healey about his call for blood, which never came, and whether it would have made a difference in Al-Hasnawi's survival. Healey said that while he intended to give Al-Hasnawi blood regardless, he didn't know if it would have helped. 

Confusion at scene 

The first officer on the scene, Officer Michael Zezella, also gave testimony. He spoke about receiving a call for possible shots fired and arriving about a minute later to a circle of witnesses gathered around Al-Hasnawi as he lay on the sidewalk.

Though Al-Hasnawi was conscious, Zezella said that he did not speak. He placed him in the recovery position as witnesses attempted to explain his stomach wound, naming causes including a BB gun, firework, and a real gun.

When the officer looked for an exit wound, he didn't find one. The only blood at the scene was from a "small puncture wound" on Al-Hasnawi's abdomen, which was on his fingertips, waistband and shoes. 

Zezella did not find a bullet casing, or a weapon, during a search of the scene later on. 

Video shows pursuit

The jury also watched two video sequences of surveillance footage gathered by police from around the mosque and along Sanford Avenue. 

Some clips show King and James Matheson, who has pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice and is now out on probation, walking on Main Street behind a man holding a shopping bag, and includes a moment when the two cross the street to the mosque. 

Others show the pair walking by a convenience store near where Al-Hasnawi was later shot. Eventually two different boys run into the store. Footage from the inside shows a young boy wildly gesturing and conversing with a man behind the counter.   

In the Crown's opening statement, he states that Al-Hasnawi's younger brother Ahmed "ran back to the convenience store for help as his brother lay down on the sidewalk, clutching his stomach." 

The next clip shows someone running, presumably out of the store and across the street. Two police cruisers pull up. 

Dale Burningsky King, charged with second-degree murder, is seen in video footage running down alleys behind homes after the shooting. (Hamilton Police Service)

Grainier footage from cameras along Sanford Ave. shows two people running and followed by three others before the shooting. The Crown and defence agree that Al-Hasnawi pursued King and Matheson, and was followed by two other people.  

Footage also shows King running down various alleys, minutes after Al-Hasnawi was shot. 

Around an hour and a half later, King is shown meeting up with Matheson and another unnamed person, who had stopped for beer at Mighty Mike's pub downtown Hamilton. After King arrives, a few minutes pass, and the group leaves. 

On Thursday, the court will hear from Al-Hasnawi's younger brother Ahmed and one of the twin brothers who were outside of the mosque with them, Haider Ameer.