News

Criminal charges laid in Edmonton terror attack

Abdulahi Hasan Sharif is charged with attempted murder, but has not yet been charged with a terrorism offence.
October 2, 2017, 12:38pm

Police have laid 11 criminal charges against the 30-year-old man alleged to have carried out a pair of attacks in Edmonton on Saturday night that left five people injured but terrorism charges aren’t yet on the docket, a court house official told VICE News on Monday.

Abdulahi Hasan Sharif, a Somali refugee residing in Edmonton, faces attempted murder, dangerous operation of a motor vehicle, and weapons charges, the court official said.

Sharif’s next court appearance is a bail hearing scheduled for Tuesday morning.

While no terrorism charges have been laid, they could be added at a later date, said a spokesperson for Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale. In order to lay terrorism charges, prosecutors must get sign-off from the Public Prosecution Service. Police originally arrested Sharif on two terror-related charges — participating in an act of terrorism and being a member of a terrorist organization. Prosecutors may yet lay those charges as well, the source said.

He remains the only suspect in the investigation into the events on Saturday evening around 8:15 when Sharif allegedly attacked and stabbed a police officer and then went on to plow a car into four civilian pedestrians along a street in downtown Edmonton.

Sharif was previously known to law enforcement when he was investigated by the RCMP in 2015 for “espousing extremist ideology,” although there was insufficient evidence to lay charges at the time, police in Edmonton said on Sunday. Officers concluded he did not pose a threat to public safety.

Read more: City rallies around police and Somali community

Of those hit by the vehicle on Saturday, two have been released from hospital while two are being held for observation, although they are not in critical condition. They face injuries ranging from broken bones to a fractured skull and cranial bleeding.

Following the attack, Canada’s threat level remains unchanged at “medium,” where it has been for the last three years. A national security team from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police is on the scene in Edmonton.

Injured officer “on the mend”

The initial target of Saturday night’s attack, Cst. Mike Chernyk , an 11-year veteran of the force is being hailed as a hero.

An Edmonton police officer who spoke to VICE News on Monday morning described Chernyk as a regular, nice guy “that you’d go for a coffee with.”

Video of the incident shows the officer being hit directly by the attacker’s car, throwing Chernyk some 15 feet, before he was stabbed repeatedly by the assailant.

Incredibly, Chernyk kept control of his firearm and managed to get to his feet as the attacker fled on foot.

Cherynk was on traffic duty near Commonwealth Stadium, where Edmonton’s football team was mid-game when the attack occurred. Even as news spread that one of their own had been hurt, the officer said the force focused on the job at hand.

“All you want to do is end the threat so society is safe,” said the officer who is friendly with Cherynk. “When you’re at work, you’re tasked with a job, you don’t really know the whole extent of everything.”

The officer said the attack hit the force personally.

“I think the bottom line is that people look at the uniform, they identify with the uniform, and don’t think of the person inside the uniform and that they have a family to go to at the end of the day,” he said, adding: “You identify with all of them because you’re one family”

The officer added Chernyk’s ability to pick himself up after the attack shows “people can do amazing things when their life is on the line.”

Chernyk was released from hospital Sunday and has been recovering at home with family. He sustained serious injuries from the crash, and from stab wounds to his head and face.
“He’s on the mend physically,” an Edmonton Police Service spokesman told VICE News on Monday morning.