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Verdict expected today in manslaughter trial of Ottawa constable

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An Ottawa constable charged in the death of a Somali Canadian man is expected to learn his fate today.

Ontario Court Justice Robert Kelly is set to present his verdict in the case of Const. Daniel Montsion, who has pleaded not guilty to manslaughter, aggravated assault and assault with a weapon.

Prosecutors allege the punches Montsion delivered on July 24, 2016, while wearing reinforced gloves caused facial injuries that precipitated Abdirahman Abdi’s death.

They argue Montsion’s use of force was unjustified and that there were many other actions he could have taken instead.

Defence lawyers, meanwhile, say the constable had no choice but to engage with Abdi and that the punches were intended as “distractionary” blows to facilitate his arrest.

They further argue the injuries Abdi suffered during the arrest did not cause or directly contribute to his death, suggesting he may have hit a “point of no return” with regards to a heart condition he had before Montsion became involved.

Court has heard Abdi suffered a fatal heart attack during the confrontation, and that he had a pre-existing heart condition that was exacerbated by the physical strain and emotional stress he experienced that day.

The defence has also argued the gloves Montsion wore, which had knuckles reinforced with plastic, shouldn’t be considered a weapon because they were provided by his supervisor and part of his uniform.

During the trial, which was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, court heard the incident took place shortly after police were called to an Ottawa coffee shop in response to reports of a man causing a disturbance.

Abdi was kicked out of the coffee shop and was acting violently and groping women when the first officer, Const. Dave Weir, arrived, court heard.

The 37-year-old was pepper sprayed and ran away, but Weir caught up with him outside his apartment building, court heard. Montsion arrived shortly afterwards after hearing about the situation from a police dispatcher.

Court has seen security footage of the confrontation, but Abdi and Montsion are largely hidden from view as the officer appears to be swinging at the other man. The Crown and the defence have given significantly different accounts of those blows and their effect.

Abdi is then brought to the ground, face forward, the footage shows.

He lost vital signs during the confrontation and died in hospital the next day. Court has heard he suffered significant facial injuries, including a broken nose.

Today’s hearing is taking place in the Ottawa courthouse but also accessible by videoconference.

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