Lawyers for an Ottawa police officer charged in the death of a Somali-Canadian man during a violent arrest in July 2016 argued during closing arguments on Monday that his use of force during the confrontation was reasonable and appropriate.
Abdirahman Abdi was killed in Ottawa’s Hintonburg neighbourhood on July 24, 2016, after a violent arrest by two Ottawa Police officers. One of those officers, Const. Daniel Montsion is facing charges of manslaughter, aggravated assault and assault with a weapon in Abdi’s death.
The arrest was captured on security footage from Abdi’s apartment.
Abdi, who was described by his family as someone with mental health issues, was being pursued by police after they received a call about an alleged groping at a local coffee shop. When the police arrived, Abdi fled about three blocks before police caught up with him in front of his apartment building.
The video shows Const. Dave Weir, the first officer to respond to the disturbance call, repeatedly striking Abdi before Montison arrives and both officers push Abdi to the ground. Montsion is then seen hitting Abdi in the head and legs before he is handcuffed. After a few minutes, his body goes limp as he loses consciousness. By the time paramedics arrived on the scene seven minutes later, Abdi had no vital signs. He died in hospital the next day.
It was revealed that Montsion was wearing assault gloves with reinforced knuckles.
Abdirahman suffered multiple bone fractures and Ottawa’s chief pathologist, Dr Christopher Milroy, testified that it was more violent than what is typically associated with punches. Milroy added that while being arrested, Abdi suffered a heart attack, and his official cause of death was hypoxic brain damage – which occurs when the brain is starved of oxygen.
While his death sparked several protests in Ottawa, Toronto and Montreal, some police officers wore blue and black wristbands to show solidarity with the Montsion.
In Ottawa, Abdirahman’s death further exasperated the rift between the police and the city’s racialized community. Residents have complained of being racially profiled by the police, a claim reinforced by traffic stop data from 2019. It showed that Middle Eastern drivers were stopped 3.18 times more than one would expect based on the population of Middle Eastern Ottawans who drive, while black drivers were stopped 2.3 times more. The traffic data was collected to settle a human rights complaint alleging racism in the department.
While delivering closing arguments, Montsion’s defence lawyer, Solomon Friedman, argued that Monstion’s blows were “distractionary” and were supposed to restrain Abdi, calling the punches “surgical”. He added Montsion acted within the training and the information available to him at the time.
“This is not a case where de-escalation plays a role. Constable Montsion has a duty to act, and he acted.”
“What Const. Montsion was faced with at 55 Hilda was not a waiting game. It wasn’t a lull. It wasn’t a pause. It was a violent and dynamic situation.”
The defence is expected to continue its submissions Tuesday, followed by the Crown.
Since being arrested on March 6, 2017 – nearly eight months after Abdirahman Abdi’s death – Montsion has been suspended with pay and has been assigned to desk duty.- He has earned 347,739.32 since 2017.
The case was set to resume in April but was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Montsion will be facing a judge-only trial.