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Ottawa cop's punches 'accelerated' Somali-Canadian man's death, Crown says


OTTAWA — The punches delivered by an Ottawa constable wearing reinforced gloves caused facial injuries that precipitated a Somali-Canadian man's death, prosecutors told the officer's manslaughter trial Wednesday.

In its closing submissions, the Crown argued Const. Daniel Montsion's actions on July 24, 2016, were a significant contributor to the fatal heart attack Abdirahman Abdi suffered during the confrontation.

The trial, the last three days of which were held remotely over video conference, previously heard Abdi had a pre-existing heart condition that was exacerbated by the physical strain and emotional stress he experienced that day.

"The punching in the face and the head — multiple punches with those gloves on — accelerated Mr. Abdi's death on account of his existing conditions and (the events of the day)," prosecutor Phil Perlmutter told the court.

"There can be multiple contributing factors," he noted.

Montsion has pleaded not guilty to manslaughter, aggravated assault and assault with a weapon in the incident, which took place after police responded to calls for a disturbance.

Court has heard Abdi was kicked out of a coffee shop and was acting violently and groping women when the first officer arrived.

Abdi was pepper sprayed and ran away, but the first officer caught up with him outside his apartment building and Montsion arrived shortly afterwards.

Security footage of the confrontation was shown to the court but Abdi and Montsion are largely hidden from view as the officer appears to be swinging at the other man. The nature of those blows and their effect has been a point of dispute between prosecutors and the defence.

Shortly afterwards, Abdi is brought to the ground, face forward.

The 37-year-old lost vital signs during the confrontation and died in hospital the next day.

Court has heard Abdi suffered significant facial injuries, including a broken nose.

The Crown previously argued Montsion's use of force was unjustified and that there were many other actions he could have taken instead.

Perlmutter suggested Wednesday the officer wasn't following his training, and that had Montsion listened to his radio, he would have known another officer was nearby and about to arrive to assist them.

"That should've informed his actions," the prosecutor said.

"He could've stepped back instead of rushing in ... he didn't stop for a second. He got out of that car, his mind was made up," he said.

Lawyers representing Montsion have argued the officer had no choice but to engage with Abdi and that the punches were intended as "distractionary" blows to facilitate an arrest.

They also said the injuries Abdi suffered during the arrest did not cause or directly contribute to his death, arguing the man could have hit a "point of no return" with regards to his heart condition before Montsion even arrived.

Closing arguments were initially scheduled for April but were delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The case returns to court on July 31 to confirm the date of the ruling, which is expected to be October 20.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on July 22, 2020.

Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press

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