PO1 Bressette defended colleagues from knife attacker

Navy News / June 13, 2019

“There wasn’t a lot of thought. It was just instinct and reaction.”

Petty Officer 1st Class (PO1) Charles Bressette was sitting at the front desk at the Canadian Armed Forces recruiting centre in North York, Ontario when Ayanle Hassan Ali entered the office building and began assaulting one of his colleagues by punching them in the head.

“I immediately yelled at the man to stop and jumped over the reception desk,” said PO1 Bressette.

“By the time I leaped over the desk, Ali had taken a foot long knife out of a folder and began stabbing at Corporal (Cpl) Kong.”

Bressette grabbed a chair and continued to approach Ali, as the assailant turned his attention from the now incapacitated Cpl Kong to Bressette. Bressette was able to keep his attacker at bay using the chair he had picked up.

Other members working at the centre began to come out of their offices. Ali saw Sergeant (Sgt) Gerhardt come out of a reception cubicle and began running after her.

PO1 Bressette yelled to the other members to call 911 and with Master Corporal (MCpl) Castillo just ahead of him, the two men pursued Ali. By this point Master Seaman (MS) Park, who was in the Canadian Forces Aptitude Test area, had moved the civilians at the centre to a senior recruiter’s office and told them to secure the door.

Ali caught up to Sgt Gerhardt beside MS Park’s desk and swiped at the back of her head with his knife. At that very moment she had leaned forward and the blade just missed the back of her head.

“Ali then turned around and stabbed MCpl Castillo in the stomach, who then fell to the floor. Moving past the master corporal he attacked me again but could not stab me because of the chair,” said PO1 Bressette.

The assailant ran into the recruiter’s bullpen, which has no exit. As PO1 Bressette waited for Ali to come back out of the bullpen he grabbed a metal garbage can.

“As he came out of the door I threw the garbage can at him but it only barely hit him and, undeterred, he kept coming toward me with the knife. The closest thing to me was the Xerox photocopier so I grabbed it and threw that at him,” recalled Bressette.

“It knocked him down, but he still had control of the knife.”

With Bressette using his chair in an attempt to hold the assailant down, Sgt Karistinos, who was just behind PO1 Bressette, forced Ali back down to the ground. In doing so, Ali lost control of the knife.

“I let go of my chair, grabbed the knife and slid it back to MCpl Dar. I then held Ali down with Sgt Karistinos. MCpl Dar gave the knife to Captain Mausser to secure in her office.”

At this point a number of people had arrived and MCpl Dar took charge of securing Ali, who was surprisingly strong. Ali began saying something in another language that MCpl Dar understood as a prayer that some extremists are known to say before detonating suicide bombs.

“Because of this we began to search him for wires and explosives. I stood up and was passed his jacket and other articles to search,” said Bressette.

“No explosives were found so we just secured Ali and waited for police.”

For their actions Petty Officer Bressette, Master Corporal Dar, Master Corporal Castillo and Sergeant Karistinos received the Medal of Bravery, one of Canada’s highest honours, from Governor General Julie Payette at a ceremony on June 13.

When asked how it felt to be recognized for his actions PO1 Bressette was characteristically humble.

“A lot of people did the right thing that day for things to end up the way they did. I am honoured that my actions were recognized. I hope I can live up to the recognition and expectation.”