2 Hamilton paramedics guilty for their roles in teen's death get 18 months in community

Two Hamilton paramedics found guilty for failing to provide the necessaries of life in the 2017 shooting death of 19-year-old Yosif Al-Hasnawi have been sentenced to 18 months to be served in the community.

Steven Snively, Christopher Marchant guilty of failing to provide necessaries of life to Yosif Al-Hasnawi

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

Two Hamilton paramedics found guilty for failing to provide the necessaries of life in the 2017 shooting death of Yosif Al-Hasnawi have been sentenced to 18 months, which will be served in the community.

Steven Snively, 56, and Christopher Marchant, 33, have been spared jail time. However, they cannot leave their homes except for medical emergencies during the first six months, Ontario Superior Court Justice Harrison Arrell said in his decision released Tuesday.

After those six months pass, the men will have a curfew of 11 p.m. to 6 a.m., the judge said. They also have to complete 150 hours of community service during the last year of their sentence.

The ground-breaking case marked the first time paramedics in Canada were found guilty for their part in someone's death as a result of their actions while working. Experts have said it may change how emergency responders do their job in the future.

Al-Hasnawi, often referred to as a Good Samaritan, was shot outside the Al-Mustafa Islamic Centre after trying to intervene as two people accosted an older man. The 19-year-old died of a single gunshot wound.

Amin Al-Tahir, director of the centre where the shooting happened, provided a victim impact statement during the trial.

"It really doesn't matter what the sentence is, as long as it's proved they are guilty," Al-Tahir said following Arrell's decision on Tuesday, adding the incident had "devastated the Muslim community in the city and across Canada.

"Hopefully we never gonna see [tragedy] like this happen again."

A 'marked departure' from standard of care

The paramedics were convicted last June following a 33-day trial. They testified they thought Al-Hasnawi had been shot with a BB or pellet gun, but it was actually a.22-calibre handgun.

He died an hour after the shooting because he was bleeding internally.

Arrell described the case as "tragic," and said Al-Hasnawi had been attending Brock University and had plans to be a doctor.

The judge found the now-fired paramedics "listened to rumours and innuendos" at the scene about the wound being superficial.

He also ruled Snively's and Marchant's actions that night amounted to a "marked departure" from the minimum standard expected of properly trained paramedics.

Arrell found they made numerous mistakes, including not leaving the scene fast enough, going to the wrong hospital, not following protocol for penetrating wounds and lifting him dangerously.

But, he noted in his sentence, medical experts testified during the trial that even if Al-Hasnawi had been shot in the lobby of a trauma hospital and operated on by an vascular surgeon within 15 minutes, he would only have had a 50 per cent chance of survival.

On the night of the shooting, 18 minutes had already passed by the time paramedics arrived and there was still a five-minute trip to the hospital for a total of at least 23 minutes, according to the judge.

"I accept, however, that whatever limited odds he had were extinguished by the actions of the defendants and the care they provided,"Arrell said.

Al-Hasnawi recites the Qur'an during a religious ceremony shortly before he got into an altercation outside the Al-Mustafa Islamic Centre, and was shot and killed. (Al-Mustafa Islamic Centre)

The Crown had argued the two men should each be incarcerated for 2½ years.

Assistant Crown attorney Linda Shin read victim impact statements from Al-Hasnawi's family members during the sentencing hearing, including one from his mother, Amal Alzurufi. 

"I don't hate you. I'm just mad  … he didn't deserve to die like this," it said.

"Nothing is more painful than losing a child. It feels like someone has ripped your heart out of your chest."

Arrell referenced statements from three of Al-Hasnawi's loved ones that described him as exceptional, a leader and the backbone of their family, and noted his loss left his mother feeling a "profound sadness."

Case sent a 'shockwave' through sector

Mario Posteraro, president of OPSEU Local 256, which represents Hamilton paramedics, said he believes Marchant and Snively have both suffered a personal loss and won't find work in emergency services again.

"This is, as we know it, the first charge and conviction of its kind in North America and perhaps the world," Posteraro said outside the courthouse.

"I think it sent an initial shockwave, sent a chill through the profession and the greater health-care sector." 

Shin said during the hearing that the prosecution had proved the paramedics caused Al-Hasnawi's death and the judge should consider manslaughter among other aggravating factors in sentencing.

They weren't charged with that offence. However, the Criminal Code allows for an uncharged offence to be considered in some situations.

Defence lawyer Jeffrey Manishen argued that would be fundamentally unfair, saying it should have been argued the trial.

He said Snively and Marchant should receive no jail time and instead face a conditional sentence of six to nine months, followed by probation and 100 community service hours.

Arrell rejected the Crown's argument, saying the prosecutors did not address manslaughter at trial, so the defence did not have a chance to respond.

"Their moral blameworthiness is significant," he said. "However, they did not cause the injury" — that was done by the person who shot him.

In 2019, Dale King was acquitted of second-degree murder in the shooting of Al-Hasnawi. The Crown is appealing the decision.

Lawyers for both Snively and Marchant read from letters of support for their clients during the sentencing hearing and said they are first-time offenders with good families.

Arrell said he was satisfied they won't be before the court again.

He also pointed to the case and sentence as sending a message to paramedics everywhere "not to ignore their training and if they do, there may be serious consequences."


With files from Bobby Hristova