Officer charged with manslaughter in Abdirahman Abdi case
The Ontario Special Investigations Unit has charged an Ottawa police officer with manslaughter and aggravated assault in the July 2016 death of Abdirahman Abdi.
The police watchdog organization issued a brief statement Monday afternoon, saying Const. Daniel Montsion is facing one charge each of manslaughter, aggravated assault and assault with a weapon.
At a press conference shortly after, the lawyer representing Abdi’s family, Lawrence Greenspon, said he expects the first court appearance in the case to be March 29.
Abdi, a 37-year-old Somali-Canadian, died in July after police responded to a call from a Bridgehead coffee shop location in Hintonburg.
Police eventually encountered Abdi near his apartment building on Hilda Street. Witnesses say Abdi was struck with batons and pepper-sprayed. A video from the scene has circulated widely online.
Abdi died in hospital soon after the encounter.
“It’s been extremely difficult for the members of the family,” said Greenspon of the eight month SIU investigation. “You have the grief of losing a son, a brother, but it’s magnified because of the public light that has been shining on this tragedy for eight months now.”
“They’ve a very proud family and they continue to weather the storm. They’ve received a lot of support from family, friends and their community. And in fact I’d say the Ottawa community at large has been very, very supportive to them. I know the family takes some solace in it,” Greenspon said.
The SIU investigates all deaths, serious injuries and allegations of sexual assault involving police in Ontario. It is rare for the SIU to lay serious charges against police officers.
Greenspon said “there is a large body of evidence” in this case. He said a civil case is likely to be started before the criminal trial.
Const. Dave Weir and Const. Daniel Montsion were identified as the two officers seen on the video kneeling next to Abdi. Both officers were part of the original investigation by the SIU, but Weir was found to be a witness and therefore not subject to charges.
Ottawa Police Chief Charles Bordeleau has also released a statement about the charges.
“What I can say is that the officer involved, like any member of the community going through a similar process, deserves to be treated fairly,” he said. “We continue to work with the community to build on relationships of trust and confidence.”
Bordeleau wrote that Abdi’s death has been difficult on the police force.
“Our members are professional and they care about this community,” he said. “It is a difficult job and they have my support and the support of the Executive Command and all Senior Officers.”
Attorney General Yasir Naqvi has faced pressure from the public to release the full report. Greenspon said that that is unlikely, since charges have been laid and the evidence in the report will come out during the trial.