Paramedic on trial says he feels partly responsible for death of teen killed by gunshot
Yosif Al-Hasnwai was shot and died on Dec. 2, 2017
One of the former paramedics accused of not properly caring for a Hamilton teen who was shot and died says he made mistakes and feels partly responsible for the teen's death — but he doesn't blame himself.
The Crown started its cross-examination of Christopher Marchant on Wednesday, who was giving his version in Ontario Superior Court of the events on Dec. 2, 2017.
Testifying in his own defence, Marchant said he and Steven Snively — the other paramedic charged with failing to provide the necessaries of life — chose the wrong hospital for gunshot victim, Yosif Al-Hasnawi.
It was also a mistake, he said, to treat the issue as a psychiatric emergency.
Al-Hasnawi, 19, was shot at Main and Sanford in Hamilton's lower city that night. The court has heard the paramedics thought it was a BB or pellet gun. In fact, Al-Hasnawi had been shot by a .22-caliber handgun, and the bullet pierced an artery and vein.
Al-Hasnawi died following massive internal bleeding that saw two litres of blood pool into his abdomen. He was shot at 8:55 p.m. and was pronounced dead at St. Joseph's Hospital at 9:58 p.m.
It took paramedics 23 minutes, the court has heard, to leave the scene for the hospital.
"So you agree...that you and Mr. Snively had made a major mistake?" asked Crown attorney Scott Patterson.
Marchant said he "can't say" that he blames himself. But when Patterson further asked if Marchant felt responsible, in part, for the teenager's death, Marchant replied that he did.
Throughout his testimony, Marchant described Al-Hasnawi as an "uncooperative" patient.
His documentation from that night uses this word too, and adds that the teen was "extremely combative" from the moment paramedics arrived.
But Marchant now says Al-Hasnawi didn't start being "combative" — he said his legs made contact with Snively — until the teenager was in the back of the ambulance, where he was eventually restrained.
The Crown said it didn't sound all that combative, and Marchant agreed he wasn't using the right word.
Paramedic called victim a 'dickhead'
Also a mistake, Marchant said, was saying Al-Hasnawi had been acting "like a dickhead."
He made the comment on a phone call with dispatcher Janice Mcmeekan the day after Al-Hasnawi died. She recorded the call.
When Patterson pointed it out as an insult, Marchant disagreed.
"Tell me, what's your definition of dickhead?" Patterson asked.
"I'm sure there's lots of definitions for it," Marchant said. He said he was fatigued and used the wrong word.
To him, Marchant said, "dickhead" was used to describe someone who was uncooperative and not forthcoming. He repeated testimony that Al-Hasnawi wasn't answering his questions, but was talking to his dad in Arabic despite being fluent in English.
Marchant said on Tuesday that he was venting to a co-worker and didn't know it was recorded.
Ambulance call report didn't capture everything, says Crown
The Crown also questioned Marchant on details that he left out of his ambulance call report.
Marchant filled out the report and Snively reviewed it, the Crown said, meaning there were two pairs of eyes — a combined 20 years of experience in the paramedic field — on it.
But there was nothing recorded about Marchant's findings from palpating Al-Hasnawi's abdomen, which he said he did at least twice. Patterson noted this was crucial in deciding whether Al-Hasnawi was going to be taken to hospital right away.
Marchant said pressing on and examining the abdomen had him rule out penetrating trauma, and move toward trying to treat either an alcohol or drug overdose or psychiatric issue. An officer and firefighter at the scene attributed the wound to a BB gun, he said.
So, when he didn't find anything, Marchant said, he didn't record it. But the Crown said this goes against how the form ought to be completed. Patterson also noted he recorded other negative findings, such as no trauma to the chest, lungs sounding clear, and no back pain.
The report noted that family members were asked "numerous" times to back away from Al-Hasnawi. Marchant said on Wednesday this was an exaggeration on his part.
It also didn't mention that Al-Hasnawi was restrained. The paramedics are supposed to report this to the dispatcher, but that didn't happen either.
Patterson asked Marchant about a "dangerous" lift he performed with Const. Michael Zezella that also wasn't written down in the report.
But the moment was recorded by a camera across the street, and the footage has been seen multiple times in court. Marchant and Zezella grab Al-Hasnawi's arms to hoist him off the ground, but fail.
Patterson said the paramedics didn't know if Al-Hasnawi had sustained a spinal injury or was in medical distress due to alcohol or drugs. He said Al-Hasnawi was "just weight" in Marchant's arms.
"You shout at [the officer] stop," Patterson said. "You shout at him, 'don't lift him'."
"No," Marchant replied to each question. He said he assisted him.
Patterson also said he didn't stop Mahdi, Al-Hasnawi's younger brother, from lifting him either.
The superior court trial began at John Sopinka Courthouse on Nov. 24. It is continuing online in the new year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The trial will be decided by Justice Harrison Arrell alone.
Crown attorneys are Scott Patterson and Linda Shin.
The defence is Jeffrey Manishen of Hamilton and DelGobbo of St. Catharines.
The person who shot Al-Hasnawi, Dale King, was acquitted last year of second-degree murder. That case is being appealed.