Two paramedics accused of failing to properly care for a 19-year-old Good Samaritan in Hamilton have been charged in the young man’s death, a move the first-responders’ union called a game-changer for the profession.
Yosif Al-Hasnawi – described by police as a brave young man trying to do the right thing – was shot on Dec. 2, 2017 after he tried to help an older man who was being accosted by two men outside his mosque.
Hamilton police charged one man with second-degree murder and another with accessory after the fact shortly after the incident. Niagara regional police were then called in to investigate the way paramedics handled the case.
Witnesses alleged paramedics accused Al-Hasnawi of acting like his wounds were worse than they were, and that the first responders took too long to treat and transport the young man to hospital.
After a seven-month investigation, two paramedics were arrested this week, police said Thursday.
“This was a very difficult and challenging case for our investigators,” said Niagara regional police Chief Brryan MacCullock. “We recognize that this continues to be a very tragic situation for the family of the deceased and our thoughts and condolences certainly go out to them.”
Steven Snively, 53, and Christopher Marchant, 29, have been charged with failure to provide necessaries of life. They were both released on a promise to appear in Hamilton court on Sept. 11, police said.
The president of a union representing the paramedics said the two men would be “vigorously defending” themselves.
“These precedent-setting criminal charges are game changers for our paramedic profession,” Mario Posteraro, of OPSEU Local 256 said in a statement. “We are confident that when the totality of the evidence is provided, they will be vindicated.”
The Paramedic Association of Canada said it would be watching the “significant” case closely.
“This truly is kind of unprecedented, in terms of a paramedic to be charged criminally,” said executive director Pierre Poirier. “Most of our health-care peers would be judged first by their regulatory college.”
Al-Hasnawi’s mother welcomed the charges and said the paramedics needed to be held accountable.
“They’re putting peoples lives in danger,” said Amal Alzurufi. “But now I feel like justice is being served for him.”
Coping with the loss of her son has been horrible, she added.
“It just hurts me, I have his pictures all over the house…it’s very hard,” she said. “I want everyone to remember Yosif for the good thing that he did.”
Family friend Firas Al Najim said Al-Hasnawi’s father, who is separated from Alzurufi, also expressed relief at the new charges.
“The paramedics are there to deal with you at a time of emergency…and you rely on them,” he said. “It was very disturbing…the way they treated a person who was in such a bad, severe situation and expressing his pain.”
Al-Hasnawi’s father and two brothers filed a civil lawsuit in January against Hamilton’s paramedics, alleging they failed to properly treat the man and claiming that their family suffered extreme emotional and mental distress.
The lawsuit also names Hamilton police, St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton and the two men charged with second-degree murder and accessory after the fact.
A statement of claim provided by the family’s lawyer alleges that paramedics and police were negligent and incompetent when they failed to administer first aid or promptly transfer Al-Hasnawi to hospital. Allegations contained in the lawsuit seeking $10 million in compensation have not been proven in court.
The Hamilton Paramedic Service said it was in the process of completing its own investigation into Al-Hasnawi’s case and couldn’t comment further.