An Ontario Supreme Court judge has found two Hamilton paramedics who treated dying teenager Youssef El-Hasnawi in 2017 guilty of failing to provide for the necessities of life.
Stephen Snelly, 55, and Christopher Marchant, 32, have pleaded not guilty.
“To say this is a tragic case would be an understatement,” Judge Harrison Ariel said in his ruling Tuesday.
Majed al-Hasnawi’s father, 19, responded to the finding by saying, “I think it’s very fair. They’re guilty. I’m not worried if they spend 10 years in prison or one year. That. I’m happy.”
Youssef was in Lower Hamilton on the night of December 2, 2017, when he was shot in the stomach.
The court heard Snaefly and Marchant believe the teen was hit by a BB bullet or a pellet pistol. In fact, Al-Hasnawi was hit with a 22-caliber pistol, and the hollow-point bullet penetrated an artery and a vein.
The court heard that it took paramedics 23 minutes to leave the scene in Maine and Sanford that night. The teen was shot at 8:55 p.m. ET, and was 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 October 25 and 26. The conviction carries a penalty not exceeding five years.
Mario Bustraro, president of OPSEU Local 256, which represents Hamilton paramedics, said legal counsel would review the decision.
He said the defendants were “clearly looking for a different outcome”, and an appeal is an “persistent possibility.”
“This is a sad and tragic event. There is no judgment and no outcome that can change the events of December 2 for the Hasnaoui family, so we feel for them,” Bustraro said.
“We are tasked with making multiple critical decisions, quickly and simultaneously under extremely challenging circumstances. We stand by our paramedics and the work they are doing in the City of Hamilton.”
He said the accusations would have serious repercussions on the field.
“These criminal charges that set a precedent are a game changer for our paramedic profession,” he said in 2018.
According to a lawyer, both Snively and Marchant are on the same release pending sentencing.
Judge said paramedics heard ‘rumours’
In his decision, Ariel said paramedics learn that a penetrating wound in a person’s abdomen is “carry-and-go” immediately to a major trauma hospital, but they fail to follow training and protocols.
Instead, they “hear rumors and insinuations” at the scene that the wound was superficial and could not be serious, and thus deprived Yousef of his only possible chance of survival,” the judge said.
Ariel said Snively’s and Marchant’s actions that night were a “notable departure” from the minimum standards expected of well-trained paramedics.
He mentioned three issues:
- The penetrating wound is not correctly identified.
- Participate in dangerous elevators to keep him off the sidewalk.
- Delay in leaving the place.
“I conclude that these various failures by the defendants were not mere negligence, lack of thought, or simple errors of judgment, but a conscious decision to disregard their training and standards,” Ariel said.
“I also concluded that as a result of these various failures of the defendants, it was objectively and reasonably expected that they were risking Yusef’s life and permanently endangering his health.”
Firas al-Najm, a family friend and human rights activist, said they were happy to see “some justice done”.
“Hopefully, there won’t be any cases in the future,” he said. “Paramedics will know not to deal with a patient like this.”
The defense argued that the fouls were not criminal
Ariel presided over the solo trial, which began in November 2020.
Crown attorneys Scott Patterson and Linda Sheen argued that paramedics neglected their training and strayed from county standards. In closing arguments, they called the husband’s medical care “gross negligence.”
But the defense said the paramedics were tracking unconscious biases that night leading them astray in Al-Hasnawi’s treatment.
They also said that while the actions of some paramedics may be faults, that does not necessarily mean that they are criminally liable.
The two defendants testified on their behalf and said that they believed that Al-Hasnawi was suffering from a psychological emergency.
Jeffrey Mansion of Hamilton as Marchant and Michael Del Gobo of St. Catharines as Snively.
Other witnesses who testified included medical experts, dispatchers, paramedics – firefighters and police officers – as well as passers-by, including members of the Hasnawi family, who were there that night.
Ariel said life “disappeared” that night, with the teen trying to be a “good Samaritan.”
Al-Hasnawi was outside a mosque on Main Street E. on December 2 with one of his brothers and others.
The shooting took place after he intervened when he saw two people leading an old man.
Dale King, the man who shot Hasnawi, was acquitted last year of second-degree murder. This decision under appeal.