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Ottawa police officer found not guilty in the death of Abdirahman Abdi

Crown prosecutors argued that Montsion's punches to Abdi's head "accelerated" his death

Noah David Alter Toronto
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An Ottawa Police Constable was found not guilty after being charged with manslaughter, aggravated assault and assault with a weapon in 2016.

The incident revolves around the attempted arrest of Abdirahman Abdi, an immigrant from Somalia who died a day after Montsion and a number of other officers attempted to arrest him.

Ontario court judge Robert Kelly ruled that while it was "likely" that Montsion's punches to the nose of Abdi caused his death, the causal link between the two could not be established beyond reasonable doubt, according to the Ottawa Citizen.

“I cannot safely make this finding on the criminal standard,” Kelly wrote, further stating that “I need not address excited delirium or psychotic illness as potential causes of death.” Montsion's lawyers argued that Abdi was in a state of "excited delirium," pointing to him resisting arrest, resisting the effects of pepper spray, and a general display of "erratic behaviour."

Montsion suffered a heart attack during his arrest and died the next day of brain hypoxia. He was 37 years old. Crown prosecutors argued that Montsion's punches to Abdi's head "accelerated" his death, and that the reinforced gloves Montsion was wearing counted as a deadly weapon in this situation.

The punches were a “substantial departure from the standard of care of a reasonably prudent, similarly situated police officer,” prosecutors argued.

Prosecutors also argued that the force which Montsion employed in the arrest was “disproportionate, unreasonable and unnecessary."

Montsion's defense argued, however, that the constable acted with restraint considering that he was “thrust into a dynamic, violent and unpredictable situation.” They also argued that the reinforced gloves are merely protective and cannot be considered a deadly weapon, and that the nose fracture suffered by Abdi was not caused by Montsion.

The ruling comes as a blow to proponents of police reform, who have used the case as an example of excessive force used by police against minority groups.

The Abdi family is not giving up what they believe to be their pursuit of justice. The family hired Ottawa lawyer Lawrence Greenspon in filing a civil suit against Montsion, as well as Constable David Weir, who faced no criminal charges. The civil suit also names the Ottawa Police Services Board and former Ottawa police chief Charles Bordeleau. The suit seeks $1.5 million in compensation.

The lawsuit alleges that the police made use of excessive force, that the officers involved were not properly trained, and that there was no proper oversight to handle incidences of police brutality.

While the criminal case was supposed to conclude earlier this year, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic lead to the trial being completed virtually.

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