Crown seeks life for man who tried to kill Edmonton police officer, pedestrians

EDMONTON — The Crown has recommended a life sentence for a man who struck an Edmonton police officer with a car before stabbing him multiple times outside a Canadian Football League game.

A jury also determined Abdulahi Hasan Sharif ran down four pedestrians with a U-Haul van during a subsequent police chase in the city's downtown on Sept. 30, 2017.

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Sharif, 32, was convicted in October on charges of attempted murder, aggravated assault, criminal flight causing bodily harm and dangerous driving.

Justice Paul Belzil is to deliver Sharif's sentence Friday afternoon.

Crown prosecutors argued before the judge Thursday that Sharif deserves a maximum life sentence for the targeted attack on the officer, and 20 years to be served at the same time for fleeing from police and trying to kill the pedestrians.

"This was a sustained and focused attack on a police officer," Shelley Bykewich told the sentencing hearing.

Const. Mike Chernyk testified during the trial 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.

The man then ran away and, a few hours later, police pulled over a U-Haul van at a checkpoint. The van sped off and, as it was being pursued by police, hit the pedestrians.

Bykewich said Sharif's actions were unrelenting and deliberate, not spontaneous and impulsive.

Her colleague, Elizabeth Wheaton, added that it was a violent, unprovoked attack against unsuspecting strangers.

"These victims mostly didn't see it coming," she said. "There was absolutely no way they could protect themselves."

Sharif, who's a Somali refugee, was not represented by a lawyer at trial and did not make any sentencing submissions.

Edmonton Police Chief Dale McFee, who read a community impact statement Thursday, said Sharif's sentence needs to send a strong message.

"These incidents are memorable for all the wrong reasons: they are terrifying, tragic, and dangerous, and they lodge in the memories of police officers for the rest of their lives."

He noted officers could be heard on audio tapes calmly and rationally making decisions about how to end their pursuit of Sharif.

But what they heard and saw, McFee said, was one of their colleagues fly through the air after being hit by a car and stabbed. Other officers saw pedestrians get hit and heard their anguished cries for help.

"This was not just another day at the office," said McFee. "It was a stranger attempting to kill people."

Two of the four pedestrians who were hit by Sharif and some of their family members also provided victim impact statements to the court.

Kim O'Hara, who suffered severe injuries, told court that her life changed forever that night.

"I feel like I lost two years of my life," she said.

O'Hara spent 42 days in hospital and wasn't able to communicate with anyone for weeks. She still has pain in her knee and hip, and battles with memory loss and speech issues, she said.

"I will suffer from that night for the rest of my life and nothing can change that."

Her son also wrote in a submission that the last two years have been hard.

"My mom was very sad, mad and anxious," he said. "I was feeling scared and unhappy. I wanted my mom to feel better."

O'Hara's friend, Jordan Stewardson, was also struck by the van. She told court she still feels pain in her shoulder and knee and suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.

"I truly became someone I am unfamiliar with. Someone I don't understand, someone I would have to learn about, deal with and recover with," she told court.

She said she experiences frequent flashbacks and, if triggered by "a word, a bright light, a sign, a person, a song" in public, just wants to escape and be alone.

"I battle this vicious cycle internally almost every day," said Stewardson.

McFee added that there will also be long-term consequences, including mental-health issues, for some of the officers involved in the case.

"We ask that justice be served," he said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on Dec. 12, 2019.

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