Crown prosecutors have told a jury Abdulahi Hasan Sharif “wanted to kill people” the night an Edmonton police officer was struck by a car and stabbed, and four other pedestrians were hit by a U-Haul truck.
Sharif’s trial began Wednesday in an Edmonton courtroom. He faces a 11 charges, including five of attempted murder.
In her opening arguments, Crown prosecutor Elizabeth Wheaton told the jury, “this case relies heavily on people who were eyewitnesses to the events as they unfolded, people including ordinary civilians and police officers who will come to court and simply tell you what they saw that night.”
About 40 people are expected to testify over the next six weeks.
Wheaton told the jury they will hear from each of the five people who were struck that night. She briefly recounted what she expects they will say.
Wheaton said Const. Mike Chernyk will describe how he was working special duty outside an Edmonton Eskimos game at Commonwealth Stadium when a car flew toward him and hit him.
“A number of bystanders started to come to his aid as he lay on his back trying to get his bearings but suddenly the driver of that vehicle was there – a black male in dark clothing with a knife. And he was trying to stab Const. Chernyk in the head with that knife.”
“The bystanders saw the knife and they fled, fearing for their lives.
“Const. Chernyk was now alone fighting for his. He reached and grabbed hold of the hand his attacker’s knife was in. Suddenly he could feel the attacker’s other hand trying to get to his gun in his holster. So with one hand still holding off the attack with a knife, he used his other hand and he pushed as hard as he could on the weapon to keep it safe.”
The Crown then talked about evidence it will introduce about the police chase. Wheaton said jurors will see video of the cube van racing through narrow city streets reaching speeds of 85 kilometres per hour.
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Wheaton also said there will be videos showing the U-Haul flying into downtown alleys and striking pedestrians waiting outside a bar.
Four were struck. The Crown told the jury there will be evidence that many others narrowly avoided joining the list of casualties that night.
“The Crown’s position is that none of these collisions were accidents. Mr. Sharif could’ve avoided the people in the alley but he didn’t. He intentionally hit them. He could’ve stayed on the road by Audrey’s Books but he intentionally drove into a crowd of people.
“He drove into these people intentionally because he tried to kill them.”
Sharif, who has been in custody since the incident Sept. 30, 2017, is representing himself.
The judge has explained he will be able to question any of the Crown’s witnesses. Sharif declined to question any of the first few witnesses – police officers who took crime scene photos.
A jury of seven men and seven women were originally chosen Monday but one was excused Wednesday morning because she is not a Canadian citizen, and is therefore not allowed to serve on a jury.
The trial is expected to last until Nov. 8.