In connection with an attack that happened at UBC in October of 2016, Thamer Almestadi, a 19-year-old international student, was charged with attempted murder, aggravated assault and assault with a weapon. On Thursday, he appeared at the BC Supreme Court for the third day of trial.
In the proceedings, the court heard from a woman that Almestadi lived with, another student witness, a paramedic that treated Almestadi after he was arrested and the arresting officer from the UBC RCMP detachment. Throughout the day’s testimonies, all of the witnesses seemed to convey in one way or another that Almestadi’s demeanor before, during and after the attack was atypical.
The court first heard testimony from Lisa Gill, a 28-year-old mother of two, who met Almestadi when he stayed with her family through a homestay program beginning in September 2015.
Gill said that Almestadi was quiet and reserved at first, but quickly opened up to her family, even occasionally watching her kids for her. She testified that she never noticed any mental health problems on his part, but had the perception that he smoked marijuana and maybe cigarettes “daily” during his time living there.
Almestadi moved closer to UBC when the hour-long commute from the Gill household became too overwhelming but, according to Gill, they kept in touch about once a month. She spoke about how he was one of the more high-achieving students that had come through their house, and that she was proud of him.
The court next heard testimony from Adam Casey, 19, who is a second-year student at UBC. Casey made headlines as a good Samaritan last October as one of the students who separated the victim, Mary Hare, and her attacker.
According to Casey, he was picking up mail from Totem Park’s commons block when two women came in and said that someone was being strangled in Salish House. He ran to the third floor of Salish and found the dorm room door slightly ajar, with a man choking a woman inside. He moved behind the man and put him in a chokehold to either render the attacker unconscious or to cause the man to let go of the woman’s neck.
According to Casey, the chokehold was unsuccessful — the man didn’t seem to register him being there at all, and did not fight back.
Eventually, with the help of other students, Casey testified that they managed to get Hare out of the room. Casey then watched the attacker as he laid on the floor, then let him get into a chair until police arrived, all while seeming very disjointed and then alert but quiet.
At the end of his testimony, the court saw Casey pointing to Almestadi in the courtroom, identifying him as the attacker.
The court then heard testimony from their third witness: Jamie Grant, a paramedic with BC Emergency Health Services (EHS) who was dispatched to the UBC RCMP detachment to treat Almestadi’s minor arm lacerations on October 4, 2016.
Grant testified that he proceeded with the typical line of questioning that he, as an EHS paramedic, would use on patients with suspected mental health issues. Throughout this conversation, Almestadi mentioned that he had been sleeping poorly and having hallucinations for “about three weeks,” according to Grant.
The final witness testimony of the morning came from UBC RCMP Officer Benson Tsui, who was one of the first officers on the scene. When Tsui responded to the emergency call and arrived at Hare’s dorm room, she was already out in the hallway. He proceeded inside the room where, he testified, the attacker had already been subdued by Casey and others, and was sitting at the desk.
Tsui noted that when he arrested Almestadi, there was no further struggle. When he told Almestadi what he was being arrested for, Tsui said, Almestadi was silent several times before he finally affirmed that he had heard.
The court will hear from two witnesses tomorrow morning, one of which will be a psychiatrist who has compiled a report on Almestadi.
Follow along with live coverage at the @UbysseyNews Twitter. We’ll be releasing a recap article after each day of the trial.