Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Ottawa's Deadly Arrest Revisited

"Memory is one of the least reliable pieces of evidence in a court of law. That's where cameras come in."
"I tell my students in class: 'Videotape to your heart's content. It's legal."
"Anything that will facilitate the truth coming out should be welcome."
Darryl Davies, professor of criminology, Carleton University, Ottawa

"The post-mortem report is critically important. The police have a right to use force. The question is:
Was the force reasonable?"

"If they [police] had arrested him or detained him and the person went into medical distress, then they have a duty to make sure that this person receives medical care immediately."
Ian Scott, former Special Investigations Unit director
YouTube video screen grab of Abdirahman Abdi outside his front steps following arrest.

"Many members of the Ottawa Muslim and Somali communities have serious concerns about how this tragic incident unfolded, including whether prejudice had something to do with Mr. Abdi's treatment."
"A thorough investigation [is called for, into Abdirahman Abdi's arrest and subsequent death associated with that arrest]."
Ihsaan Gardee, executive director, National Council of Canadian Muslims

"It's not normal. The way [the police] acted was not reasonable."
"We easily fall to the trap of the emotions to say, 'Us against them'. Especially what's gone on now in America. We don't want that kind of thing to happen. We don't experience the same things as in America -- especially in Ottawa."
Abdourahman Kahin, founder, Muslim Presence, Ottawa

"We've lost a neighbour We're shocked, we don't know why this happened, but we wanted to come together."
"That's one of the most important things we can do as a community over the next several weeks -- talk to each other."
"You know, I am looking forward to finding out what happened from the investigation, but I do trust that this is a fairly isolated incident. [The police have been] fantastic community partners [in the neighbourhood."
Ottawa Municipal Hintonburg Councillor Jeff Leiper
Mourners arriving for a memorial pass flowers laid outside the apartment where Abdirahman Abdi lived and was fatally injured after being arrested by Ottawa Police officers.
Mourners arriving for a memorial pass flowers laid outside the apartment where Abdirahman Abdi lived and was fatally injured after being arrested by Ottawa Police officers.
There is a slightly clearer understanding of what occurred and the time elements involved in Sunday's tragedy that led to the death of 37-year-old Abdirahman Abdi, a man known to his neighbours as being on the autistic spectrum with a clear mental disorder and unable to verbalize his thoughts to communicate with others. While he was known to be intellectually fragile, he was also regarded as a peaceful man. On Monday he died in hospital, a situation resulting from rough treatment by police in the process of arresting him.

Police had responded to 911 calls which were reporting that the man was inside a Bridgehead coffee shop in Hintonburg -- very close to the family apartment where Mr. Abdi lived with his parents and siblings -- where he was behaving in a physically abusive manner. Evidently he had been grabbing at women's breasts. It wouldn't have taken long for police to respond, an administrative police building was situated nearby. And when police arrived on the scene, they ordered Mr. Abdi, whom they described as continuing to be "assaultive", to surrender himself.

Instead -- and it isn't known whether he would have understood what was being communicated to him, despite living in Canada for the past nine years -- the man fled the short distance (270 metres) to the street where his apartment building stood. He was captured, shot with pepper spray, hit with batons with some notable measure of physical force, according to witnesses. Finally he was arrested and handcuffed. By then he was face down on the ground, comatose, blood on his face and spreading on the pavement.

People witnessing the event saw a violent beating, and they recorded what they saw on cellphone video. Two experienced Ottawa Police Services officers have been identified and removed from active duty while the SIU investigates what precisely had taken place, to determine responsibility. The officers are well thought-of, neither having ever experienced disciplinary proceedings. One had been commended for extensive volunteerism helping a women's charity, the other received a commendation for skill, good judgement and dedication to a high standard of police conduct and humanitarianism.

One witness had recorded 27 minutes while Mr. Abdi lay on the ground, as police wiped blood from his face and performed chest compressions before and after the arrival of paramedics. It had previously been asserted it took 15 minutes before paramedics arrived, and another ten minutes before the victim was conveyed by ambulance to hospital. But actual records show that paramedics arrived five minutes and 24 seconds following their dispatch.

Moreover, complaints that police waited too long before radioing for paramedics appear to have misjudged the time element, since Police Chief Charles Bordeleau quotes record-keeping that indicates within 23 seconds of Mr. Abdi's requirement for medical assistance being noted, the call for paramedic assistance went out. At police headquarters the priority nature of the call was emphasized to paramedics.

The 26-minute time frame quoted appears to have taken in the time the first calls reporting Mr. Abdi groping women at the coffee shop began, to the time he was conveyed to hospital. Police are shown at various times in the bystander videos attempting to apply pressure to the fallen man's bleeding head. His death is in the category of a suspicious in-custody death. Only a post-mortem examination will reveal the cause of death.

That, and the results of the SIU investigation will determine whether or not the police officers involved will be cleared of wrong-doing in the use of excessive force.

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