Two Hamilton paramedics are facing rare criminal charges after allegedly dismissing the pain of a Good Samaritan shooting victim – a 19-year-old who lay dying on a Hamilton sidewalk for 40 minutes before he was taken to hospital.
Steven Snively, 53, of Hamilton and Christopher Marchant, 29, of Whitby, Ont., have been charged with failure to provide the necessities of life in relation to the death of Yosif Al-Hasnawi on Dec. 2, 2017.
Mr. Al-Hasnawi, a student at Brock University, had just left the Al-Moustafa Islamic Centre in downtown Hamilton when he saw two younger men allegedly accosting an older man. He intervened, and was shot in the stomach.
His younger brother ran to a nearby store to call 911 – but when paramedics arrived, witnesses said they dismissed the teen’s pain and accused him of acting.
Amin Al-Tahir, director of the Al-Moustafa Islamic Centre, where Mr. Al-Hasnawi had been attending a celebration with his family that evening, said he and others were pleading with the paramedics to take him to hospital.
“His dad lay down beside him, and [Yosif] tells him in Arabic, ‘I have difficulty breathing,’” Mr. Al-Tahir told The Globe in December, a few weeks after the young man’s death.
“We start to scream at the paramedics, ‘Please take him to the hospital.’ But we saw they didn’t take him seriously.”
Mr. Al-Tahir said the paramedics insisted the teen had been shot by a pellet gun and was fine. When the ambulance did finally pull away, its sirens were not activated. The 19-year-old was taken to St. Joseph’s Healthcare, even though the city’s lead trauma centre (where gunshot victims are typically treated) is Hamilton General Hospital. He was pronounced dead that night.
Two men, Dale Burningsky King, 19, and James Matheson, 20, have been charged in connection with his death.
Hundreds of mourners packed Hamilton city hall for a memorial for the Good Samaritan in December. A vigil was also held at Brock University, and the school announced that a scholarship would be established in his name.
Amid outrage from the community, Hamilton police asked the Niagara Regional Police Service to investigate the emergency care provided that night, in order to ensure an independent and impartial investigation.
In a statement released Thursday, Niagara Police Chief Bryan MacCulloch said it was a “complex and intricate investigation that required the careful consideration of all available evidence to our investigative team.”
Mario Posteraro, head of the Hamilton paramedics' union, said the charges are “unprecedented” and “creates significant concern for the profession.”
Firas Al Najim, a human rights activist and friend of the Al-Hasnawi family, said Thursday that for the community, the charges felt like “some kind of justice." But he expressed concern about the length of time the investigation took.
“The delay was not called for, especially when the statements from family members, community members and also the bystanders all aligned,” Mr. Al Najim said. “Everything they [the paramedics] did from beginning to end … delaying taking him to hospital, taking him to the wrong hospital – the whole procedure was all incorrect.”
He said Mr. Al-Hasnawi had “a good future ahead of him.”
Chief MacCulloch said the investigation involved an extensive canvass, and interviews with over 60 witnesses.
“In the course of the seven month investigation,” he said, "detectives examined numerous documents, video and audio recordings and consulted with health-care professionals to help inform their investigative decisions.”
A separate investigation by the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, under the Ambulance Act, is ongoing.
The Hamilton Paramedic Service also launched an internal probe into the case, which city spokesperson Allison Jones said Thursday is “approaching completion.” Until that is finalized, Ms. Jones said the city is unable to provide details about the paramedics' employment status.
Mr. Posteraro said the pair has been on paid leave since the investigation was launched.
Mr. Snively and Mr. Marchant were released on a promise to appear. They will return to court in Hamilton on Sept. 11.