Retired lawyer, Brock University set up scholarship in Yosif Al-Hasnawi's name

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A retired Burlington lawyer — who doesn’t know Yosif Al-Hasnawi, or his family, or anyone he knows — has partnered with Brock University to set up a scholarship in the name of the 19-year-old who was shot to death Saturday.

David Harvey is raising money for a financial award in memory of Al-Hasnawi, a first-year Brock medical sciences student who hoped to become a doctor. The teen was shot and killed in Hamilton Saturday night while trying to stop someone from accosting an older man.

Harvey was moved by the story, and wanted to find “a sort of lasting way to remember him.”

“He was coming to the aid of a stranger, which I think says something about his character,” Harvey said.

Also, he was struck by “just the senseless nature of it.


Mourners gather around the remains of Yosif Al-Hasnawi at a funeral at the Al-Mostafa Islamic Centre Monday. (Mark Bochsler/CBC)

“It’s not just being able to give something to honour him, but it’s also an expression for the community that (the shooting) isn’t who we are.”

Al-Hasnawi’s death made international headlines since Saturday.

The Hamiltonian, whose family moved here from Iraq in 2008, was attending a religious celebration at the Al-Mostafa Islamic Centre at 545 Main St. E. He and his little brother stepped out for a break, attendees say, when he spotted the interaction between two people and the older man.

The two males crossed the street, police say. Then the confrontation moved to Sanford Avenue South, where around 9 p.m., Al-Hasnawi was shot with a handgun.

The province is investigating what happened next. Paramedics responded, although witnesses say they didn’t seem to take it seriously. Emergency responders seemed to believe he’d been shot with a pellet gun, they say, and told him he was acting.

Emergency response questioned after Ontario teen shot3:11

Witness accounts say at least 20 minutes passed before Al-Hasnawi was taken to hospital, where he died around 10 p.m. He was also taken to St. Joseph’s hospital rather than Hamilton General Hospital. Hamilton General is where trauma patients are typically taken and is slightly closer to where Al-Hasnawi was shot.

Hamilton Paramedic Service says it’s investigating. So is the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care’s investigations branch. Hamilton police say if they uncover any wrongdoing on their part, they’ll investigate that too.

The alleged shooter is still at large, police say, and a second person is in custody.

As for the scholarship, Harvey said he just wants to help. He’ll consult with Al-Hasnawi’s family about its criteria.

“I saw the news and I felt terrible for the family, and felt like I’d like to do something,” he said. “And I thought ‘If I’m feeling this way, there have to be other people out there who feel the same way.'”

“We’ll raise as much as we can and then whatever we have, we can structure a scholarship to match that.”

Brock says its Student Justice Centre is also holding a vigil at 3 p.m. on Friday. 

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