The man accused of stabbing an Edmonton police constable on the weekend and running down four pedestrians on Jasper Avenue has not been charged with terrorism-related offences.
Abdulahi Hasan Sharif, 30, has been charged with five counts of attempted murder, four counts of criminal flight causing bodily harm, dangerous driving and possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose, RCMP announced at a news conference at Edmonton police headquarters on Monday.
The RCMP’s Integrated National Security Enforcement Team (INSET) has taken over the investigation.
“We are still very much in the infancy stage [of the investigation],” said RCMP Supt. Stacy Talbot, who heads up INSET in Alberta.
Asked why Shariff wasn’t charged with participation in a terrorist attack, Talbot said: “The complexities of a terrorism investigation are vast. If warranted, further charges will be pursued.”
On Sunday, Edmonton police said Sharif was facing possible charges for participating in a terrorist attack and commission of an offence for a terrorist group.
The incident began Saturday when a Chevrolet Malibu plowed into a police crowd-control barricade, striking Const. Mike Chernyk and sending him five metres into the air. The driver got out and stabbed the officer repeatedly, then ran off.
Hours later, police pulled over a U-Haul cube van at a checkstop on the city’s north side and noticed the driver’s name was similar to the registered owner of the car that had struck the officer.
Police pursued the U-Haul from Wayne Gretzky Drive to Jasper Avenue in two marked police vehicles and four tactical vehicles, Insp. Carlos Cardoso said Monday.
The U-Haul struck pedestrians along Jasper Avenue at 107th Street before the van was flipped on its side on 100th Avenue at 106th Street.
“It was a tactical vehicle that manoeuvred to get U-Haul on its side,” Cardoso said.
Other police cars blocked off the streets during the chase then secured the area once the pursuit was over, he said.
“If we hadn’t pursued this vehicle, in light of the use of the car earlier to run over a police officer, and the history of large vehicle attacks in Germany, Spain and other European countries, the outcome would have been much worse,” Cardoso said.
Four pedestrians suffered injuries ranging from “broken arms to brain bleeds,” police Chief Rod Knecht said during Sunday’s police news conference.
Two pedestrians have since been released from hospital. Two remain in hospital, one in serious condition, Talbot said Monday.
Chernyk, 48, was treated for stab wounds to his head and face and abrasions on his arms. The 11-year veteran of the force has since been released from hospital.
Sharif, a Somali refugee, was investigated in 2015 for allegedly espousing extremist views, but investigators said there was insufficient evidence for an arrest and decided he was not a national security threat.
‘Not as safe as we thought’
Witnesses described pandemonium in downtown Edmonton on the night of the chase.
Jaylene Ellard was on her way to a friend’s birthday party Saturday night when she saw the cube van speed down the street with a fleet of police cars behind.
“It was just chaos,” she said on Monday.
Ellard said she fears the attack will incite racist backlash in the city. Her sentiments were echoed by fellow witness Cody Cooper, who watched pedestrians thrown into the air by the speeding cube van.
Allowing the event to fuel more hatred and discrimination will only make a horrible situation more tragic, he said.
“I hope people don’t act on it,” he said. “It’s a terrible thing but just to add chaos to chaos is not going to help the situation.”
Sharif is scheduled to appear in an Edmonton courtroom at 9 a.m. on Tuesday.
With the charges now before the courts, RCMP said Monday’s news conference would be the final one on the case.