One of three firefighters called out to a shooting in Central Hamilton three years ago says the information they received pointed to a victim with a pellet gun wound.
Day 16 in the trial of two former Hamilton paramedics charged with failing to provide the necessities of life saw Hamilton firefighter Grant McQueen take to the stand for the Crown.
McQueen told the court that he and his two compatriots, Capt. Mark Stevens and driver Mark Vanspronsen, grabbed a large medical bag and a defibrillator from their truck before walking toward the scene at Sanford Avenue and Main Street East on Dec. 2, 2017.
During his first look at the victim, McQueen said Al-Hasnawi was lying on the ground near a police officer.
“He was agitated, rolling around in his back, grasping his stomach,” the firefighter said.
Moments later a police officer gave the firefighters a “wave off” and McQueen says that’s when they started a “scene survey” to ask what happened.
“I don’t know the exact words, but he said something to the effect of it’s just a pellet gun or it’s just a BB gun, something like that,” McQueen said.
The firefighter said he did get to see Al-Hasnawi’s wound and characterized it as “smaller than a dime” with a “very tiny amount of blood.”
During his short encounter with police, McQueen remembered one of the officers saying something about the victim “acting.”
“I don’t know the exact words, but something to the effect that he’s acting. Like it’s just a BB gun. He’s acting like it’s worse,” the fireman said.
When the paramedics arrived, McQueen says the “taller” of the two stopped to talk to his crew to get information. Moments later, the firefighter remembers the paramedics telling them they could leave.
“So they said, you’re good, you can go,” McQueen said. “And that’s why I started picking up our equipment to leave.”
Just before leaving the scene, McQueen recalled the “older, shorter” paramedic trying to pick up the victim by his wrist but failing.
“He said, I believe he said, ‘He’s acting. He’s pretending’,” McQueen said.
“After the older paramedics said that, the patient said, ‘Then why does it hurt so much?”
During a cross-examination with Michael DelGobbo, counsel for Paramedic Steven Snively, McQueen said his crew told paramedics the patient was “apparently” suffering from a pellet gun wound. However, he could not remember if they told them they received that information from one of the police officers.
“We didn’t get very far in our assessment. That’s all the information we had so far,” McQueen said.
Jeffrey Manishen, counsel for paramedic Christopher Marchant, asked McQueen his impression of Al-Hasnawi’s wound and if he believed it to be a pellet gun injury.
The firefighter said he made the assumption it was from a pellet gun based on what the police officer he talked to told him. However, he did agree with Manishen that from what he saw, it did “correspond” with such an injury.
Manishen also took McQueen back to his interview in 2018 with the Niagara Regional Police where he told investigators the older paramedic said, “I think he’s acting or something like that” after failing to pick up the victim.
The firefighter told court, “This is the answer I gave at the time. I agree with that. To the best of my memory today, I believe he said he is ‘acting’ without the words ‘I think.'”
Manishen also asked why his recollection of Al-Hasnawi saying, “Then, why does it hurt so much?” was not communicated to Niagara police in his interview.
“That memory did not come to your mind in January 2018?” Manishen asked.
“It did not, not during those interviews,” McQueen said.
“It’s just a mosquito bite”
The first witness on the stand on Wednesday was Anthony DiCiccio, a resident who lived near Sanford and Main the night of the shooting.
DiCiccio says he was woken up by his girlfriend that night and said someone had been shot.
He told Crown counsel Linda Shin that when he went to see what was going on, he saw an officer trying to “settle down” the scene.
DiCiccio said he didn’t see much movement or words from the victim but believed he was in a “great deal of pain.”
He said after paramedics arrived, he heard laughter and remembers someone saying to Al-Hasnawi that he was going to be alright.
“I still to this day, I remember, one of them saying, don’t worry, you’re going to live, it’s nothing serious, it’s just a mosquito bite,” DiCiccio said.
In a cross-examination with Michael DelGobbo, DiCiccio characterized the scene as “chaotic” and told counsel he never heard anyone say something about a pellet gun.
When he saw Al-Hasnawi’s wound, the resident said he didn’t see any blood and agreed with DelGobbo that it looked like a pellet gun wound.
DiCiccio told DelGobbo that he did hear someone make a comment about Al-Hasnawi “faking” his injury but could not confirm who said it.
In a re-examination, the Crown’s Linda Shin asked DiCiccio if he could attribute the “mosquito bite” comment to a specific paramedic, referring to his January 2018 interview with Niagara police in which he didn’t recall a paramedic saying the words.
DiCiccio said, “I believe one of the paramedics, I don’t know. But somebody did say it at the time.”
Justice Harrison Arrell took the query a step further, asking the witness if he was sure it was paramedics or could have been the police.
DiCiccio said, “I don’t know.”
‘All kinds of laughter’
Also on the witness stand on Day 16 was Janis Cort, a resident who lived in an apartment nearby.
Cort told the court her grandson alerted her from the balcony of her suite while she was in the living room.
She stepped out to the balcony, and said her son told her “they just shot this guy.”
Cort remembers a gathering of about 30 to 40 people at the scene on Dec. 2, 2017.
She told the court she was “disgusted” by “all kinds of laughter” that she heard.
“I didn’t think it was funny,” Cort told Crown counsel Scott Patterson.
Doctor, Dispatcher on the stand Thursday
Day 17 of the trial on Thursday is expected to include testimony from Dr. Elena Bulakhtina, who performed the autopsy on Al-Hasnawi.
Shot with a .22-calibre handgun on Dec. 2, 2017, Al-Hasnawi died from rapid blood loss after a hollow-point bullet hit the largest vein in his body.
The 19-year-old was pronounced dead at St. Joseph’s Hospital at 9:58 p.m.
The shooter, Dale King, was acquitted in 2019 of second-degree murder.
A manager with the dispatch centre is also scheduled to take the stand on Thursday.