Man who tried to kill Edmonton police officer sentenced to 28 years

A man who tried to kill a police officer then mowed down four pedestrians in downtown Edmonton in what RCMP characterized as a terrorist attack was sentenced Friday to 28 years in prison.

Abdulahi Hasan Sharif was given an 18-year sentence for attempted murder for slamming his car into the officer, then stabbing him multiple times, in September 2017.

Court of Queen's Bench Justice Paul Belzil also handed Sharif four 10-year sentences for striking the pedestrians with a U-Haul truck.

Those concurrent sentences will be served after Sharif's 18-year term for trying to kill Const. Michael Chernyk.

Outside the courthouse on Friday, Supt. Stacey Talbot, who runs the RCMP's integrated national security enforcement team in Alberta, confirmed an ISIS flag was found in and that police still believe it was a terrorist attack.

But, Talbot said, officials did not pursue terrorism charges because the other charges were deemed to have a better chance of conviction. 

Deliberately targeted

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 only conclusion that can be reached ... is that the offender targeted Const. Chernyk, who was working alone, vulnerable and completely unsuspecting," Belzil said Friday as he delivered the sentence.

Chernyk was "targeted because he was a police officer. Courts must denounce this behaviour in the strongest of terms. An attack on police is an attack on law and order in Canadian society and cannot be tolerated," he said. 

A few hours after Chernyk was attacked, police pulled over a U-Haul truck at a checkpoint. The truck sped off and was pursued by police through the city's downtown area. Four pedestrians were struck by the truck before it was stopped and flipped over by a police vehicle carrying a tactical unit.

"The criminal flight from police turned into a criminal rampage, presenting the police with a dangerous and dynamic situation," Belzil said. "The four civilian pedestrians became targets of opportunity."

Sharif, 32, was convicted in October on 11 charges, including attempted murder, criminal flight causing bodily harm and dangerous driving.

Crown sought life sentence

Crown prosecutors had argued that Sharif deserved a maximum life sentence for the targeted attack on the police officer, and 20 years to be served concurrently for fleeing from police and trying to kill the pedestrians.

The Somali refugee was not represented by a lawyer at trial, did not testify or call any witnesses and did not make any sentencing submissions.

Belzil noted that Sharif was given the opportunity to address court and never did so.

"There is no evidence that he is remorseful for his attack," the judge said.

Outside court, Crown prosecutors spoke about how difficult the case was for everyone.

"Twenty-eight years is a significant sentence," said Crown prosecutor Elizabeth Wheaton. "Obviously it is not the position we put before the court. In practical terms, with a life sentence he would have been bound by the parole board for the rest of his life once released."

She said the judge came to a thoughtful, reasoned decision.

"Our primary concern in cases like these is the protection of the public in the future, as well as general deterrence," said Wheaton.

Edmonton Police Chief Dale McFee, who read a community impact statement Thursday, said he has mixed emotions about the sentence.

"I don't think you're ever happy with a sentence, because you see the looks on the victims there," he said outside court Friday. "I think we've been heard, based on the totality of the sentence. Is it enough? You know, you just hope in 28 years this individual can come to grips with what he did. And the terror and the tragedy that he's caused for individuals and their lives.

"Things like this aren't something we as a city or a country can accept."

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