Vancouver stabbing victim speaks out; Family says attacker was defending himself
The victim of a stabbing attack that was caught on video in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside is speaking out about the traumatizing event. Meanwhile, the family of the attacker says the video doesn't show the entire story.
Natalie was one of the three people wounded last week, after a man began to wave a knife and lunge at people in the city’s Downtown Eastside. The 48-year-old asked CTV Vancouver to only use her first name in this story because she still feels scared.
The attacker, who was shot and killed by police, has been identified as 26-year-old Abdi Gani Mahamud Hirsi from Edmonton.
Surveillance video of last Thursday’s attack obtained by CTV Vancouver shows Hirsi lunging at people, slicing two bystanders while on Hastings Street. He then moved towards Gore Street.
Natalie said that she was standing outside a church at the time, and went over to see what the commotion on Gore Street was all about. She accidentally dropped a $20 bill, and when she reached out to pick it up she saw Hirsi coming at her with a knife.
"I looked up and he was lunging for me," she said. "It was about a six-and-a-half (inch) blade."
She said she suffered five stab wounds: two to her shoulder, two to her hand and one in her head. She showed CTV Vancouver a row of small stitches in her scalp.
Police eventually shot and killed Hirsi, who then fell on top of Natalie.
"His head fell right on top of me, all I saw was white eyes," she said. "He was like the devil—a demon, a zombie. The blood was gushing on me."
An officer pulled Natalie out from under Hirsi, and she was taken by paramedics to Vancouver General Hospital for treatment. But, unfortunately for her, her suffering wasn't yet over.
Sent to a hotel in a cab
Just three days after being admitted, the hospital sent Natalie in a cab to a hotel in the city's downtown eastside.
Liza McDowell, from the Downtown Eastside Women's Centre, said the hospital should not have sent Natalie there.
"It wouldn't be a really good place for someone to change bandages or do wound-dressings or anything like that because the room is quite bad," she said. "There (are) often rat feces… I do know it's an unkempt building."
Natalie said she was shocked that the hospital sent her home when she was still in the process of recovering.
"I'm still traumatized at how the hospital can just treat me like that – somebody who almost just died being sent out on the curb, basically," she said.
The Downtown Eastside Women's Centre has helped Natalie find a transitional bed at Vancouver Coastal Health while she heals. Meanwhile, the regional health authority has apologized for the treatment she received while in its care.
"We would have to apologize," VCH spokesperson Gavin Wilson said. "I think it's unacceptable the level of care that was given to her. We let her down."
Family says attacker was defending himself
Members of Hirsi's family were in Vancouver for his funeral Tuesday. They told reporters that the images in the surveillance video do not tell the full story.
Mahaad Hirsi said his cousin Abdi Gani Mahamud Hirsi had been stabbed and was acting out of self-defence.
"He was already injured; he was in shock," he told reporters. "He wasn't in a perfect state of mind in that moment."
Other family members said the Edmonton resident was a good person.
"My brother was not a homeless man who came to the city," sister Faisa Hirsi said. "My brother was a faithful man; my brother was a university graduate. My brother had hopes and dreams and he was an individual."
She also warned that the video footage is incomplete. "That is the only thing you captured on camera (is) when he is defending himself," she said.
It was not clear to the family why Hirsi was in Vancouver. Some family members said he was on vacation, visiting friends or looking for work.
When asked by CTV Vancouver why Hirsi was in one of the city’s most troubled neighbourhoods, his cousin said he simply didn't know.
"I wish I knew," Mahaad Hirsi said. "None of us are from Vancouver. There are many questions that need to be answered."
The family said they are waiting for the results of an investigation into the incident from the police watchdog, the Independent Investigations Office. They also said they have spoken to a lawyer about what options are available to them.
With a report from CTV Vancouver's Jon Woodward and Penny Daflos