Yosif Al-Hasnawi, Good Samaritan fatally shot in Hamilton, laid to rest in Iraq
Teen who was killed while intervening in an altercation 'represented the real image of Islam'
Nearly a month after he was shot and killed while trying to defend an older man in an altercation outside a Hamilton mosque, 19-year-old Yosif Al-Hasnawi was laid to rest in Iraq on Monday alongside some of the most beloved and revered figures in Shia Islam, a family friend says.
The teen's father, Majed Al-Hasnawi, travelled with his son's body on an approximately 12-hour journey from Canada to Turkey on Saturday, and then to the Wadi al-Salam cemetery in Najaf, the Iraqi city that houses the tomb of Imam Ali, central to Shia Muslims in particular, Firas Al Najim told CBC News.
"It's a very sacred place to be buried," Al Najim said. "His family, and we as a community, believe that he died as a martyr because he really represented the real image of Islam."
- 'He always had good in his heart': mourners question death of Good Samaritan shot in Hamilton
Al-Hasnawi, a first-year Brock University medical sciences student and the eldest of five siblings, had just finished reciting from the Qur'an at a celebration for the birth of the Prophet Muhammad at the Al-Mostafa Islamic Centre in Hamilton's central lower city on Dec. 2, when he stepped out with his younger brother. There, he spotted an older man being accosted by two men, according to police, and tried to step in to help before he was shot.
Two men have been arrested and charged in connection with his death.
'He was trying to help somebody'
"He was in a centre called 'al-Mustafa' [one of the names for the Prophet], he was celebrating the Prophet Mohammed's birth, and then he was reciting Qur'an, he walked outside and, pretty much, he was a victim because he was trying to help somebody," Al Najim said.
"He'd seen oppression and our religion teaches us to promote good and forbid evil and to help people that are oppressed. He felt that it was necessary for him to intervene, to help. And when he helped, he got attacked."
But beyond the pain of losing a loved one, Al Najim says the family is also grappling with the added pain of wondering if Al-Hasnawi might be alive had paramedics responded differently.
Multiple witnesses allege paramedics told Al-Hasnawi that he was acting, shot by a pellet gun, and that his injuries weren't real. According to Hamilton police, it was nearly 40 minutes from the time paramedics arrived on scene to the time they departed for the hospital.
'We want justice'
Both the Hamilton Paramedic Service and Ontario's Ministry of Health and Long-Term care are investigating. Greg Martin, operations supervisor for HPS, previously told CBC News the service takes any kind of complaint or allegation against a paramedic seriously.
"What hurts us the most, as a community, is that the paramedics, their precise position is to help people in times of emergency, but they treated him in a very, very bad manner," Al Najim said, adding that the family is hoping to see criminal charges laid.
"We want justice for this young beautiful child that just lost his life," he said. "But this is not even just for our justice for Yosif … we don't want to see any Canadian citizen be dealt with like that."
'A self-inspired person'
For now, Al Najim says friends and family are remembering Al-Hasnawi for his kindness and caring demeanour, a young man who his father relied on to help ensure his younger brother, who has diabetes, regularly tested his blood.
Meanwhile, back at his Hamilton home, a stone from Iraq and a rosary remain in Al-Hasnawi's bag. It's a reminder, says Al Najim, of his character and piety.
"He had so many goals, he was such a self-inspired person, such a special child, very quiet guy, very clean, very organized."
His abode now will be a different home, Al Najim said.
"It's a new world for him."