Hamilton man not guilty of 2nd-degree murder in shooting death of Good Samaritan

A jury has found Dale King not guilty of second-degree murder in the shooting death of Good Samaritan Yosif Al-Hasnawi.

Dale King admits to pulling the trigger on the night of Dec. 2, 2017

Dale King cut his hair after he learned police were looking for him following the shooting death of Yosif Al-Hasnawi. On Wednesday, a jury found him not guilty of second-degree murder. (Court exhibit)

A jury has found Dale King not guilty of second-degree murder in the shooting death of Good Samaritan Yosif Al-Hasnawi.

King, 21, shot the 19-year-old Brock University student once in the abdomen on Dec. 2, 2017. Al-Hasnawi was standing outside a Main Street East mosque and shouted at King and his friend James Matheson for bothering an older man.

King was charged with second-degree murder, but said he shot Al-Hasnawi in self defence. The jury had the option of finding King guilty or not guilty of second-degree murder, or guilty of manslaughter. King broke down in tears when the verdict was read.

Al-Hasnawi's mother, who sat through every day of the proceedings, left the courthouse quickly without talking to reporters.

"She's very upset, obviously," said Det. Sgt. Steve Bereziuk from Hamilton police. "I don't know how else I can phrase it. She's quite upset."

Yosif Al-Hasnawi, 19, was shot and killed in Hamilton on Dec. 2, 2017. (Al-Mostafa Islamic Centre)

The court heard that Al-Hasnawi, who was studying medical sciences, shouted at King and Matheson just before 9 p.m. that Saturday evening. The pair crossed the street to where Al-Hasnawi stood with his 13-year-old brother and two 16-year-old friends, who had all stepped outside during a break from a religious ceremony.

The conversation turned tense, and King flashed his .22-calibre Derringer, the court heard. Matheson sucker-punched Al-Hasnawi, who "snapped," witnesses said. When the pair ran away, an unarmed Al-Hasnawi chased them. King says he shot him once while he was running.

King said in court that he thought Al-Hasnawi must be armed since he was running after someone with a gun. The Crown suggested Al-Hasnawi was embarrassed after being punched in front of his little brother and two friends.

The hollow-point bullet made a small hole in Al-Hasnawi's abdomen, and one witness testified that he told the dying teen he'd been shot with a BB gun and would be fine. Paramedics, witnesses testified, seemed to think that, too.

Lawyers Owen Goddard and Jonathan Shime represented King. King, Shime says, is "feeling relieved." (Justin Mowat/CBC)

Al-Hasnawi died in hospital about an hour later of internal bleeding with two litres of blood in his abdomen. Two paramedics who responded to the scene face trial early next year on charges of failing to provide the necessaries of life.

Matheson pleaded guilty last year to obstruction of justice.

Jonathan Shime and Owen Goddard represented King in the three-week Superior Court trial at Hamilton's John Sopinka Courthouse. Shime said it's been a long two years for King.

"He's relieved the jury listened as they did to the evidence and ultimately came to the conclusion they did," Shime said. 

"I'm confident that Dale will go on and do very good things with his life."

"She’s very upset, obviously," says Det. Sgt. Steve Bereziuk of Al-Hasnawi's mother. (Justin Mowat/CBC)

King has a lengthy criminal record, including five convictions for assault, including assault with a weapon and assault causing bodily harm. Justice Andrew Goodman ruled to exclude the assault convictions from what the jury heard.

King is Indigenous, Goodman said, and Indigenous people are overrepresented in the criminal justice system. King is also a former foster child whose family history includes alcoholism and abuse.

The Crown lawyers were Brian Adsett and Gordon Akilie.

Hamilton police's Bereziuk said early in the case that Al-Hasnawi was a good person who was trying to help someone else. He said Wednesday he still believes that.

"Yosif was framed early on and I stand behind that," he said. "It's a night I'm sure everybody wishes didn't happen."

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