U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said Tuesday that a Somali refugee charged with ramming his car into a Canadian policeman, stabbing him and then injuring four people while leading officers on a high-speed chase over the weekend was ordered deported from the U.S. in 2011.
Jennifer Elzea, an ICE spokeswoman, said Hasan Sharif Abdulahi was taken into ICE’s custody in San Diego in July of that year and in September an immigration judge ordered him sent back to Somalia.
Elzea said Sharif was released from custody two months later then failed to report as ordered for his removal on Jan. 24, 2012. She said efforts to locate him were unsuccessful. She also said Sharif had no known criminal history at the time of his encounters with ICE.
Sharif now faces 11 charges in Canada, including five of attempted murder in the Saturday night attack in Edmonton, Alberta. Police have raised the possibility of filing terrorism charges against Sharif because there was an Islamic State flag in his car and he was investigated in 2015 for espousing extremist views.
Canadian Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said Sharif, 30, entered Canada legally in 2012 and obtained refugee status. Scott Bardsley, a spokesman for Goodale, said Sharif entered from the United States through a regular port of entry and was granted refugee status later that year.
“There was no information that would have raised any red flags when he entered Canada,” Bardsley said in an emailed statement.
ICE listed Sharif’s name with slightly different spelling, Abdullahi Hassan Sharif. But a Canadian official and a U.S. government official both said it is the same man.
The U.S. official said slightly different spellings are not uncommon. Both the U.S. and Canadian officials agreed to discuss the matter only if not quoted by name, because they were not authorized to discuss certain details of the case.
A preliminary hearing for Sharif opened Tuesday but was recessed so he can find a lawyer. He appeared on closed-circuit television and followed proceedings with the help of an interpreter. The suspect spoke briefly with a lawyer who stepped forward to help.
The hearing was held over until Nov. 14, but could resume sooner if Sharif can hire a lawyer before then.
Edmonton police say they believe Sharif acted alone during the series of attacks, which began around 8:15 p.m. Saturday as police Constable Mike Chernyk was handling crowd control outside a Canadian Football League game at a stadium just northeast of downtown.
Chernyk was hit by a speeding white Chevy Malibu that rammed through a barrier and sent him flying through the air. The driver got out, pulled out a large knife and began stabbing Chernyk as he lay on the ground. The officer fought back, and the suspect fled on foot.
Chernyk suffered cuts on his face and scrape on his arms but was released from a hospital and is expected to make a full recovery.
Police distributed the name and physical description of the Malibu’s registered owner and set up roadblocks, and officers stopped the suspect, now driving a U-Haul truck, hours later at a checkpoint.
The driver took off toward downtown with police in high-speed pursuit, and the truck struck four pedestrians along the way. The chase continued until the truck crashed on its side. Officers used a stun gun on the driver and took him into custody.
Two of the four pedestrians remain hospitalized, one with a fractured skull.