Two paramedics are facing criminal charges in connection with the death of a Hamilton man who was shot while trying to help an older man being harassed outside his mosque.

CTV News has learned that the paramedics, who were released by police with a promise to appear in court on Sept. 11, have both been placed on paid administrative leave.

Yosif Al-Hasnawi, 19, died last December. He has been described as a Good Samaritan who attempted to stop a man being harassed by two other people.

A 19-year-old man has been charged with second-degree murder in connection with Al-Hasnawi’s death, while a 20-year-old man has been charged with being an accessory after the fact.

A separate investigation was launched into the paramedics’ response to Al-Hasnawi’s death, following complaints that paramedics accused Al-Hasnawi and of exaggerating his injuries and took too long to treat him as a result.

Two paramedics – 29-year-old Christopher Marchant of Whitby and 53-year-old Steven Snively of Hamilton – are now facing charges of failing to provide the necessaries of life. Their union president said in a statement that the union would stand behind them through the court process. Snively was arrested, fingerprinted, photographed and released Wednesday night, while Marchant went through the process Thursday.

“We are confident that when the totality of the evidence is provided they will be vindicated,” said Mario Posteraro of OPSEU Local 256.If convicted, the paramedics could each face prison terms of up to five years.

Hamilton police asked Niagara Regional police to conduct the investigation to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest. Niagara Regional Police Chief Bryan MacCulloch said Thursday that their investigation included interviews with more than 60 witnesses.

Posteraro described the charges as “precedent-setting,” calling them “game changers” for all paramedics.

Even if the charges do not result in a conviction, they will stick in the back of the mind of any emergency responders who face similar situations, according to criminal defence lawyer Ari Goldkind.

“If you’re an EMT today, you are probably quaking in your boots that everything you do or do not to … is now, perhaps, going to be analyzed with an even finer-toothed comb,” Goldkind told CTV News Channel.

Goldkind described it as “extraordinarily unusual” for paramedics in Canada to face criminal charges over allegations that they could have done more to help a patient.

Firas Al-Najim, a friend of Al-Hasnawi’s family, said Thursday that the family was feeling “some kind of happiness” after learning of the charges.

“It’s really painful that it took this long,” he said.

Al-Hasnawi’s family has filed a civil lawsuit against the paramedics, Hamilton’s entire paramedic service, Hamilton police and a health care organization.

The $10-million lawsuit makes allegations of negligence, which have not been tested in court, on the parts of paramedics and police officers.

Hamilton police have declined to comment on the charges, citing a policy of not commenting on cases before the courts.

With files from The Canadian Press