'Do you believe him now?' dad says at trial of ex-paramedics charged after son's death

·7 min read

When the father of Yosif Al-Hasnawi, a Hamilton teen who was shot and died on Dec. 2, 2017, found out his son had died, he asked the paramedic who treated him, "Do you believe him now or not?"

Majed Al-Hasnawi was quiet and solemn when he took the stand on Monday in the trial of two paramedics charged with not providing proper care to his son.

Christopher Marchant, 32, and Steven Snively, 55, are charged with failing to provide the necessaries of life in connection with the 19-year-old's death. The pair believed he'd been shot with a BB gun, the court has heard, but he was shot with a hollow point bullet from a .22-calibre handgun.

Through the help of an Arabic interpreter, Al-Hasnawi told a Hamilton courtroom about that night, which started with him and his children at a Main Street East mosque.

Yosif had done a reading that night from the Qur'an, which Al-Hasnawi said his son was "very, very good" at. The children would often come and go from the mosque, he said.

'I put on my shoes and ran outside'

At some point in the evening, one of his sons, Mahdi, gestured to him and said, "Yosif got shot."

Al-Hasnawi said he repeated the question in total shock. His son said Yosif was OK, and the father rushed out.

"Right away I put my shoes on and ran outside," he said, describing how he flew toward Main Street East and Sanford Avenue South in Hamilton's lower city, where his oldest son lay on the sidewalk, dying.

A police officer by a crowd of people stopped Al-Hasnawi from getting close, but let him approach when he found out he was the father. Al-Hasnawi said the officer told him Yosif was shot with a BB gun, "because if it was a bullet...they would've seen its shell." But there wasn't one.

'Tell your son to stop acting'

Al-Hasnawi said he could see a "hole or opening" above Yosif's belly button.

The father passed a paramedic and remembers him saying Yosif was OK, but to "tell your son to stop acting." When the defence brought up a transcript from a previous interview with police, Al-Hasnawi had said the officer said something similar too.

Jeffrey Manishen of Hamilton, who represents Marchant, pressed Al-Hasnawi on whether he thought both police and paramedics said the comment, and Al-Hasnawi said they did.

"It's the paramedics who assess the situation," Al-Hasnawi said. "Whatever the police officer is going to say...it's not going to affect my son's life.

Laura Clementson/CBC
Laura Clementson/CBC

Al-Hasnawi said he knelt by his son.

"You're going to be fine. Be patient, we're going to get you to the hospital," he remembered saying to him.

Yosif was tired, confused, and his body tight, he said, adding Yosif replied weakly, "let them take me to the hospital."

Al-Hasnawi told the courtroom that the way paramedics evaluated and treated his son seemed to show they thought, "there's no danger in the matter." That's why he told his son he would all right.

Father remembers 'excessive' pressure to abdomen

Al-Hasnawi said the "taller paramedic" would approach Yosif multiple times to lift his shirt and squeeze the wound with his fingers.

He also described the paramedic putting Yosif's leg one over the other as the teen lay on his back. Then the paramedic would lift and bend his legs repeatedly, he said, so that Yosif's knees went into his own chest, like a "sport exercise." The father called the pressure excessive.

He could tell it hurt his son, Al-Hasnawi said, because of Yosif's tight expression.

The defence noted that he didn't talk about this action in his first two interviews with police a few years ago, but brought it up in May 2018 with the paramedic supervisor.

The father remembered telling Yosif, "you're going to be fine. Don't be scared." But Yosif responded that he couldn't breathe.

To the stretcher

The court has heard from a Hamilton officer at the scene, Const. Christopher Campovari, that Al-Hasnawi was frantic and asking the paramedics why they weren't taking his son to hospital.

When a paramedic asked him if Yosif took any drugs or substances, Al-Hasnawi said he replied, "no. He's a medical student."

He remembers the "shorter paramedic" saying, "if he's a medical student, he wouldn't be here."

The father said the tallest paramedic lifted his son off the ground in a "shameful" and "humiliating" way, so that he was hanging before walking him to the stretcher and "throwing" him on it.

Const. Michael Zezella of Hamilton Police Service told the court last week that he and Marchant tried to lift the teenager, but couldn't do it. Zezella said another person pulled him off the ground.

Al-Hasnawi doesn't remember the stretcher going into the ambulance or it leaving. What he does remember is leaving from the scene to go to St. Joseph's Hospital, and finding out that his son had died.

'I don't talk to you'

When asked by Crown Scott Patterson what he thought of the paramedic's treatment, Al-Hasnawi replied, "I was not satisfied."

He said he approached the taller paramedic, and "asked him if he believed that my son was in danger or not" now that he had died. He asked him this multiple times, and a nurse told the father to sit quietly.

Later on, he asked the paramedic again, "Do you believe him now or not?" He remembers the paramedic asking to have a conversation outside.

"I don't talk to you. You're not human," Al-Hasnawi remembers saying.

Defence suggests trauma makes it hard to remember

Each lawyer compared Al-Hasnawi's descriptions on Monday to his responses in police interviews on Dec. 19, 2017 and Feb. 12, 2018, as well as a May 2018 interview with the EMS supervisor.

Al-Hasnawi said he hadn't read the interviews to jog his memory because it reminds him of the disaster. He watched a video of the February one, though.

They both suggested that Al-Hasnawi's ability to properly remember would be affected because the event was traumatic. Michael DelGobbo, Snively's lawyer, called it the worst night of the father's life.

Al-Hasnawi told DelGobbo, "I would forget everything, except this incident," but also said to Manishen that it would be "possible" to make a mistake.

'I was in pain'

When DelGobbo questioned why he didn't include the pushing-knees-into-chest description in the first two interviews, Al-Hasnawi said he forgot. It was hard to concentrate — the "beginning of the disaster," he said — and he wouldn't have remembered everything.

"I was in pain. I just wanted to get over it," he said.

He also asked Al-Hasnawi why he said in an interview that "they" lifted up his son, when he recalled on Monday that it was only one person. Al-Hasnawi said in Arabic, the word can be used for a single person.

But when Manishen asked him to confirm he used the phrase "both of them," he said, yes.

Both lawyers asked questions about the paramedic's inquiry about drugs. Al-Hasnawi said it didn't offend him, and when Manishen asked if he told the paramedic that drugs were against his religion, he said there wasn't any conversation like that.

When Manishen asked if Al-Hasnawi thought police were rude, he said he did, but understood they wanted to "do their job" and preserve the crime scene. He noted they apologized after.

Manishen will continue his cross-examination of Al-Hasnawi tomorrow.

About 23 minutes passed from the time the paramedics arrived until they left for St. Joseph's hospital on Charlton Avenue. The teen was pronounced dead at 9:58 p.m.

Monday marked the start of the trial's second week. So far, the court has heard from two police officers and a firefighter who were on scene that night. Ambulance dispatchers also testified that the communications centre was busy and understaffed on the night of the shooting.

Majed Al-Hasnawi was a witness for the Crown.

The trial in Hamilton superior court is expected to last five weeks, and Justice Harrison Arrell will render a verdict. The Crown attorneys are Scott Patterson and Linda Shin.

The person who shot Al-Hasnawi, Dale King, was acquitted last year of second-degree murder. That case is being appealed.