EDMONTON — A Somali refugee has been found guilty of trying to kill a policeman outside a football game as well as four pedestrians who were struck with a U-Haul van — an attack originally investigated as possible terrorism.
Jurors convicted Abdulahi Hasan Sharif of five counts of attempted murder, along with aggravated assault against the officer, criminal flight causing bodily harm and dangerous driving.
“We want to thank the jury members for the time and attention that they paid to this case,” Edmonton’s chief Crown prosecutor Shelley Bykewich said outside court Friday. “They had a very difficult task and a significant amount of evidence to go through the past three weeks.”
One male juror wiped away tears as the verdict was read.
Sharif, 32, was not represented by a lawyer and had pleaded not guilty to all 11 charges.
Greg Lazin, a lawyer who was appointed by the court to help Sharif, said it was one of his most difficult trials in 37 years.
“My role was not to act for Mr. Sharif but to attempt to provide a sense of balance,” he said. “It is extremely difficult to be completely neutral in any kind of file.”
‘Level of non-participation’ from accused
The trial heard from about 40 Crown witnesses. Sharif declined to call any witnesses and did not testify in his own defence.
Lazin said he has been involved in cases where an accused refuses to participate in a trial or a sentencing. “I have not been involved in a case where there has been this level of non-participation.”
Sharif didn’t ask for Lazin’s help and showed little emotion as witnesses took the stand.
Const. Mike Chernyk testified that he was on traffic duty outside an Edmonton Eskimos game when he was struck by a car. He next remembered a man on top of him, stabbing him in the head with a knife.
A woman and her boyfriend who were walking their dogs near the stadium said they heard a car rev its engine before it rammed into a barricade and the police officer.
After attacking the officer, Sharif struck and injured four pedestrians as he drove a speeding U-Haul van through the city’s downtown.
Jack Zubick, Paul Biegal, Jordan Stewardson and Kimberley O’Hara told court about being hit and how they coped with broken bones, anxiety and depression.
O’Hara was in the courtroom Friday, but declined to comment after the verdict.
The jury also heard from an undercover police officer who testified that Sharif detailed the attack in a holding cell the next morning.
“Mr. Sharif advised that he did something really bad ... that last night was like a dream,” said the Mountie.
He said Sharif went on to detail the attack on Chernyk. He also spoke of fleeing from police in the van and hitting several people.
Investigated prior to the attack
The Crown argued during its closing statement that Sharif went to extraordinary lengths to cause as much chaos and destruction as possible.
The jury didn’t hear about how Alberta’s Integrated National Security Enforcement Team initially investigated the attack as an act of terrorism.
In the days that followed, police revealed that Sharif had been investigated two years earlier for espousing extremist views. An Islamic State flag had also been found in his car.
Sharif was never charged with any terrorism offences.
Sentencing arguments are to be heard on Dec. 12 and 13.
Sharif has declined to participate in a pre-sentencing report, which can help judges determine punishment based on an offender’s background.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on Oct. 25, 2019.
CORRECTION: A previous headline on this story said Abdulahi Hasan Sharif had been sentenced. He was found guilty but has not been sentenced yet.