July 25, 2016 8:26 am
Updated: July 26, 2016 9:06 pm

Man dies after being critically injured in ‘confrontation’ with Ottawa police: SIU

WATCH: Ottawa police investigated after man fatally beaten. Shirlee Engel explains.

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A 37-year-old mentally ill man hospitalized with critical injuries following his arrest in Ottawa has died.

The Special Investigations Unit tweeted Monday afternoon the man, identified by his family as Abdirahman Abdi, had died.

Family spokeswoman Nimao Ali said Abdi was dead “45 minutes” before arriving in hospital, though he was not officially declared dead until Monday afternoon.

WATCH: Video shows paramedics attending to man who died following Ottawa police arrest.

“It is devastating” to his family, who were at the hospital with him, she said. Abdi added that she has been told lack of oxygen causing brain damage was a key factor in his death.

Abdi was well known in the community — “the kind of man who would hold the elevator door open for you” — and always had a smile on his face, Ali said, adding he suffered from mental illness.

“We are very sad to see him go and about how his life ended.”

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Ali said Abdi’s arrest occurred at the doorstep of the building he lived in, in full sight of residents.

“It was right there that he died. And our children and his family and this community witnessed (it). So that is horrific,” she said.

“It’s like watching a horror movie. But this time it’s real.”

Speaking earlier, Ali said the incident raises questions of how police handled the arrest.

 

An eyewitness, who did not want to give his name, alleged two officers “wrestled” with Abdi before they “tossed him down onto the ground, beating him up.”

“Even after the guy had the handcuffs on they still kept beating him up. The guy was only screaming for help. They beat him up senseless until the guy was unable to speak or to do anything.”

The witness alleged one officer used his baton “hammering on the guy’s face on the ground” while another officer “used his fists.” The man said the alleged beating lasted “at least 20 minutes” until paramedics arrived.

“It was totally abuse of power, abuse of force,” he alleged.

Ottawa police are not commenting on the incident, citing the SIU investigation.

The SIU says it’s examining the circumstances surrounding the arrest, which began when Ottawa police officers responded Sunday morning to a report of a man causing a disturbance.

The agency said the officers located a 37-year-old man and, at some point during the confrontation, the man suffered medical distress.

The SIU is an arm’s length agency that investigates reports involving police where there has been death, serious injury or allegations of sexual assault.

With files from Bryan Mullan and The Canadian Press

© 2016 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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