Ambulance dispatchers, former firefighter testify at trial for Hamilton paramedics

Yosif Al-Hasnawi was shot in December 2017 near a Hamilton mosque. Brock Student Justice Centre

More details are emerging about the paramedic response to the fatal shooting of a 19-year-old Hamilton man nearly three years ago.

Former Hamilton paramedics Christopher Marchant and Steven Snively have pleaded not guilty to failing to provide the necessaries of life to Yosif Al-Hasnawi on the night of Dec. 2, 2017.

On Wednesday during the second day of the Superior Court trial, the court heard from two 911 dispatchers that the call centre was short-staffed that evening, with only five people working instead of the usual amount of eight or 10, and no supervisor on duty.

Read more: Trial begins for 2 Hamilton paramedics charged in death of Yosif Al-Hasnawi

It was also exceptionally busy that night.

The call to paramedics was issued shortly after 9 p.m. and reported that a male had received “superficial wounds” to his abdominal area after being shot with a BB gun in the area of Aikman Avenue and Sanford Avenue South.

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Janice Mcmeeken, one of the dispatchers who testified, but not the one who originally issued the call, said Marchant had radioed the call centre to ask why it was prioritized at an emergency level if Al-Hasnawi’s injury was “superficial”.

She then told Marchant it was a “penetrating wound” in an effort to put an end to more questions, saying she had other calls on her screen that she needed to dispatch.

Mcmeeken told the court that in her 21 years of experience, ‘99.9 per cent’ of calls involving a gun are classified as high priority.

Following the exchange with Marchant, Mcmeeken filed a complaint, citing the paramedic’s “sarcastic” comments over the air.

She said she finished her shift and went home to watch the news, at which point she learned that the man who had been the subject of that call had died in hospital.

Anastasia Markos, another dispatcher who was on duty that night, said the ambulance was sent to St. Joseph’s Hospital instead of Hamilton General Hospital — which was closer and less busy — due to the incident being identified by paramedics as an “emergency psychiatric” case.

She also said the call would have normally been reported to a supervisor, but because there wasn’t one working, that wasn’t documented.

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Read more: Hamilton man ‘not-guilty’ in death of Yosif Al-Hasnawi

Former Hamilton firefighter captain Mark Stevens also testified, saying he was among those who responded to the scene before paramedics arrived.

Stevens says he was prevented from approaching Al-Hasnawi by a police officer, who said, “he’s been shot with a BB gun and he’s acting like it’s an AK-47”.

The officer’s words confused Stevens at first, but also “shocked” him due to how loudly and aggressively he made the comment.

Stevens described the teen’s movements while he was lying on the ground next to one of the police officers on scene, saying he grabbed the officer’s leg at one point and appeared to be “agitated”.

When paramedics got there, Stevens recalled seeing the small dark red wound on Al-Hasnawi’s torso, and when he asked if they needed any help, he was told “we’re good” by Snively.

Stevens’ testimony will resume on the third day of the trial for cross-examination from Jeff Manishen and Michael DelGobbo, defence attorneys for Marchant and Snively.

Linda Shin and Scott Patterson are representing the Crown, and the trial is being presided over by Justice Harrison Arrell.

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It’s expected to last about five weeks and will involve the testimony of numerous witnesses, including emergency responders, Al-Hasnawi’s family, and bystanders who witnessed the teenager’s final moments.

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