Just hours after the man accused of two shocking vehicle attacks made his first court appearance in Edmonton on Tuesday, U.S. officials confirmed Abdulahi Hassan Sharif* was ordered to be “removed to Somalia” by an immigration judge in 2011.
In an email to Global News, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said they transferred Sharif into custody at San Diego’s Otay Mesa Detention Center on July 15, 2011 after he was taken to that department by U.S. customs and border protection. It isn’t clear why he was initially brought to the attention of U.S. officials.
Two months after he was brought to ICE, a judge ordered him to be returned to Somalia. ICE said Sharif waived his right to appeal.
However, on Nov. 23, 2011, Sharif was released from custody “due to a lack of likelihood of his removal in the reasonably foreseeable future,” U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said.
“Sharif failed to report to ICE ERO (Enforcement and Removal Operations) on his scheduled date on Jan. 24, 2012. Efforts by ERO San Diego to locate him were not successful.”
U.S. officials said Sharif had no known criminal history at the time.
Documents provided to police by the Alberta government and later obtained by Global News show Sharif is a Somali refugee who came to Canada in 2012. Initial information on the documents indicated he was sponsored by the federal government for one year.
However, according to a spokesperson for the federal public safety minister, Sharif presented himself at an official port of entry and then claimed asylum status. He was granted refugee status later that year.
Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale has insisted security screening of Sharif was thorough.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the government is looking into what happened in this situation.
“It’s certain that we have asylum processes that need to be followed rule by rule,” Trudeau said in Ottawa Wednesday morning.
“When someone presents himself at our border we have rules to follow and we make sure that those rules are followed. We’re looking into the whole system and we’ll reflect on whether we need to do things differently in the future than the way they were done in 2012, but the priority is always making sure we’re defending the values and rights of Canadians while keeping our community safe.”
Sharif, 30, is charged with five counts of attempted murder, five counts of dangerous operation of a motor vehicle, one count of criminal flight causing bodily harm and one count of possession of a weapon.
He’s accused of ramming a car into a police officer outside Commonwealth Stadium Saturday night before jumping out and stabbing the officer. Police said he fled and allege he later drove a U-Haul van through downtown Edmonton, deliberately striking four pedestrians.
In 2015, Sharif was investigated by the RCMP in Canada after someone reported he was “espousing extremist ideology.”
“There was insufficient evidence to pursue terrorism charges or a peace bond,” RCMP Assistant Commissioner Marlin Degrand told reporters on Sunday.
Sharif is currently being held at the Edmonton Remand Centre. While he does not currently face any terrorism-related charges, Edmonton’s police chief said on Sunday that the vehicle attacks are being investigated as acts of terrorism.
On Tuesday night, Public Safety Canada issued a statement to Global News reiterating the ministry’s position that security screening of Sharif was thorough.
“As we said, Mr. Sharif entered Canada from the United States through a regular port of entry in 2012 and was found to be a refugee later that year,” the statement reads. “As Minister Goodale has stated, there was no information that would have raised any red flags when he entered Canada.
“Due to privacy laws, we cannot disclose further details of this case. According to U.S. authorities, he was not detained for criminal activity. In general, it is to be noted that only individuals who are inadmissible, including for serious criminality, would be ineligible to make an asylum claim. Being detained for immigration purposes in another country would not prevent someone from being able to make an asylum claim in Canada.”
**There is a slight discrepancy in how U.S. and Canadian officials spell Sharif’s first name: American officials spell it with two Ls while Canadian officials spell it with one.