OTTAWA – The injuries sustained by a black man when he was arrested in Ottawa four years ago did not directly cause or contribute to his death, lawyers for the officer charged with manslaughter argued Tuesday.
Constable Daniel Montsion also pleaded not guilty to the charges of aggravated assault and assault with a weapon. The court heard that the victim suffered serious facial injuries, including a broken nose.
Abdirahman Abdi, a 37-year-old Somali Canadian, suffered a heart attack during the surgery on July 24, 2016, and died in hospital the next day. Prosecutors argue that the beatings inflicted on Mr Abdi – including the punches that Constable Montsion inflicted on him in the face with reinforced gloves – contributed to his fatal heart attack.
In their closing arguments at trial, attorneys for Constable Montsion argued on Tuesday that Mr. Abdi was at the time suffering from an undiagnosed heart disease which was exacerbated by the emotional and physical stress suffered during events. The defense argued that according to a forensic pathologist heard at trial, Mr. Abdi’s state of health could have reached a “point of no return” even before Constable Montsion arrived there. Solomon Friedman argued that death was therefore inevitable under the circumstances.
The arrival of the first police officer, Constable Dave Weir, added to the stress level for Mr. Abdi, who fled and was sprayed with pepper spray in his face on two occasions, Friedman said. From that point on, Mr. Abdi could have passed the point of no return on several occasions, he pleaded.
The defense admitted that policeman Montsion hit Mr. Abdi in the face before the man was knocked down to the ground, but argued that the punches were “distraction” maneuvers which caused no injury.
Me Michael Edelson recalled that a surveillance video did not show any bleeding after the punches. And even though Constable Montsion broke Mr Abdi’s nose, Edelson pleaded, the Crown has not proven the force used was intended or likely to cause bodily harm – he is charged with aggravated assault. .
The defense also argued that the reinforced knuckle gloves worn by the officer were purchased by his supervisor, were part of his equipment and therefore should not be considered a “weapon” – he is charged with assault with a weapon. .
Police were called to an Ottawa café that day in response to reports that a man was causing trouble. After his escape, Mr. Abdi was caught up with Constable Weir a few blocks outside the building where he was staying, where Constable Montsion arrived as reinforcement. The intervention sparked several protests in Ottawa and other Canadian cities.
Final arguments were scheduled to continue on Wednesday.
Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press
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