2 paramedics found guilty in death of Hamilton teen Yosif Al-Hasnawi

Two Hamilton paramedics who treated dying teenager Yosif Al-Hasnawi in 2017 are guilty of failing to provide the necessaries of life, an Ontario Superior Court judge has found.  

Steven Snively, 55, and Christopher Marchant, 32, had pleaded not guilty.

“To say this is a tragic case would be a gross understatement,” Justice Harrison Arrell said in delivering his decision  Tuesday.

The 19-year-old’s father Majed Al-Hasnawi, reacted to the finding by saying, “I think it’s very fair. They are guilty. I’m not concerned if they take 10 years in jail or one. I’m not about that. I’m happy.”

Yosif was in Hamilton’s lower city on the night of Dec. 2, 2017, when he was shot in the abdomen. 

The court heard Snively and Marchant believed the teen had been shot with a BB or pellet gun. In fact, Al-Hasnawi was shot with a .22-calibre handgun, and the hollow-point bullet pierced an artery and vein. 

It took paramedics 23 minutes to leave the scene at Main and Sanford that night, the court heard. The teen was shot at 8:55 p.m. ET, and pronounced dead at St. Joseph’s Hospital about an hour later.

Union leader says appeal is possible

The court has scheduled a two-day sentencing hearing for Oct. 25 and 26. The conviction carries a sentence that cannot exceed five years.

Mario Posteraro, president of OPSEU Local 256, which represents Hamilton paramedics, said legal counsel will review the decision.

The defendants were “obviously looking for a different outcome,” he said, and appealing is “always a possibility.”

“This is a sad and tragic event. There’s no verdict, no outcome that can change the events of Dec. 2 for the Al-Hasnawi family, so we do feel for them, ” Posteraro said. 

“We’re tasked to make multiple critical decisions, rapidly and simultaneously under very difficult circumstances. We stand by our paramedics and the work that they do in the City of Hamilton.” 

He has said the charges will have serious implications for the field.

“These precedent-setting criminal charges are game-changers for our paramedic profession,” he said in 2018.

Snively and Marchant are on the same release pending their sentencing, according to one of the lawyers. 

Paramedics listened to ‘rumours,’ judge said

In his decision, Arrell said paramedics are taught that a penetrating wound to a person’s abdomen is an immediate “load and go” to a lead trauma hospital, but they failed to follow training and protocols.

Instead, they “listened to rumours and innuendos” at the scene that the wound was superficial and could not be serious, “and as such deprived Yosif of his only possible chance of survival,” said the judge.

Firas Al Najim, a human rights activist, Yosif’s dad, Majed Al-Hasnawi, and Yosif’s younger brother, Ahmed Al-Hasnawi, left to right, hold a photo of Yosif outside the Hamilton courthouse. (CBC News)

Arrell said Snively’s and Marchant’s actions that night amounted to a “marked departure” from the minimum standard expected of properly trained paramedics.

He pointed to three issues:

  • Failure to properly identify that the wound was a penetrating one.
  • Their participation in dangerous lifts to move him from the sidewalk.
  • The delay in leaving the scene.

“I conclude these various failures by the accused were not simple inadvertence, thoughtlessness or simple errors in judgment, but instead were a conscious decision to ignore their training and standards,” said Arrell.

“I also conclude that as a result of these various failures of the accused, it was objectively and reasonably foreseeable that they were risking Yosif’s life and permanently endangering his health.”

Firas Al Najim, a family friend and human rights activist, said they’re happy to see “some justice served.” 

“Hopefully there’s not going to be any case in the future. The paramedics are going to know not to deal with a patient like this,” he said. 

“When he’s telling you he can’t breathe, if he’s hurt, just take him to the trauma centre.  Do your job.  You’re not there to see if he’s acting”

Defence argued mistakes were non-criminal

Arrell presided over the judge-alone trial, which started in November 2020. 

Crown attorneys Scott Patterson and Linda Shin had argued the paramedics ignored their training and departed from provincial standards. In closing arguments, they called the medical care the pair provided “grossly negligent.”

But the defence said the paramedics were following unconscious biases that night, which led them astray in treating Al-Hasnawi. 

They also said that while some of the paramedics’ actions may have been mistakes, it didn’t necessarily mean they were criminally responsible.

Both of the accused testified on their own behalf and said they thought Al-Hasnawi was experiencing a psychiatric emergency. 

Jeffrey Manishen of Hamilton represented Marchant and Michael DelGobbo of St. Catharines represented Snively. 

Other witnesses who testified included medical experts, dispatchers and first responders — firefighters and police officers — as well as bystanders, including Al-Hasnawi’s family members, who were there that night.

Arell said that life was “snuffed out” that night, with the teen attempting to be a “Good Samaritan.”

Al-Hasnawi was outside a Main Street E. mosque on Dec. 2 with one of his brothers and others. 

The shooting happened after he intervened when he saw two people accost an older man. 

Dale King, the man who shot Al-Hasnawi, was acquitted last year of second-degree murder. That decision is being appealed.

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