Lawyer for accused in Edmonton attack says there may be mental-health issues

EDMONTON — A man facing several counts of attempted murder after a police officer was hit with a car and stabbed by an assailant is to face two psychiatric assessments.

The reviews are to determine Abdulahi Hasan Sharif’s mental state at the time of the attack and as he faces trial, his lawyer said Monday as his client appeared in an Edmonton court via video link.

“The information is extremely preliminary at this moment,” said Karanpal Aujla. “However, from the information I’ve been told and review of the initial disclosure, it appears to me that there certainly may be issues that pertain to mental health.”

Sharif was charged after a speeding car rammed through a barrier at a Canadian Football League game in Edmonton on Sept. 30 and sent an officer flying five metres through the air. The driver got out, pulled out a large knife and began stabbing Const. Mike Chernyk.

Four pedestrians were hit and injured hours later by the driver of a cube van speeding away from police cars in downtown Edmonton.

Chernyk suffered stab wounds to the face and the head. He has returned to work and was honoured at CFL and National Hockey League games in the city. The other attack victims are recovering from their injuries.

A judge agreed with Sharif’s lawyer that initial evidence suggests the accused’s mental health needs to be assessed.

Aujla said evidence comes from initial disclosure and a conversation with someone who knows Sharif. Aujla has met with his client and said he appears “like a normal guy.”

No bail application will be made until the assessments are complete, the lawyer said.

“We probably would want to see what happens with the mental health assessment before we proceed. We are getting new information regularly. It’s a moving picture.”

Sharif, a 30-year-old Somali refugee, is to appear in court again on Dec. 13. An Islamic State flag was found in the car used in the attack, but no terrorism charges have been laid. Aujla said police are continuing their terrorism investigation.

Sharif faces five counts of attempted murder, four counts of fleeing an officer causing bodily harm, one count of dangerous driving and one count of possession of a dangerous weapon.

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