WARNING: This article contains a graphic photo some readers may find upsetting.
Numerous pictures of the seemingly blood-stained ground outside the entrance to a Hintonburg apartment building where two Ottawa police officers allegedly pinned down Abdirahman Abdi in 2016 were shown in court on Monday as the criminal trial of Const. Daniel Montsion resumed after close to a three-week hiatus.
Montsion pleaded not guilty earlier this month to charges of manslaughter, aggravated assault and assault with a weapon in connection with the death of 37-year-old Abdi, who died soon after that struggle with police on July 24, 2016.
The weapon in question is alleged to be knuckle-plated Oakley “assault gloves” Montsion was wearing during the confrontation, which were officially entered into evidence in court on Monday as the Crown continued questioning its first witness, SIU investigator David Robinson.
Robinson — who documented the scene outside 55 Hilda St. and the clothing worn by Abdi, Montsion and Const. Dave Weir, the second officer involved in the incident — said he observed “traces of red material” on Montsion’s left glove, between the second and third knuckles and just above the index knuckle.
(Robinson initially described the stains in court as blood stains but after the defence challenged describing them as such at this point in the trial, the stains were referred to as “red stains” or “red dots” “staining.”)
It was testimony the SIU investigator began the first day of trial, on Feb. 4, before a disruption involving other potential evidence ended up steered the proceedings in a different direction.
The Crown alleged at the trial’s outset that Montsion committed an “unjustified assault” on Abdi that Sunday morning in 2016 by punching him several times in the legs and face with the reinforced gloves, and that the facial injuries Abdi sustained as a result contributed to his death.
The Crown on Monday, however, quickly moved on from the gloves to the photos Robinson took of the scene at 55 Hilda St. Many of the pictures captured large “red stains” on the interlock stone entryway and on the square, metal, drain grate outside the apartment building’s front doors.
Robinson testified that he observed red staining at the top of the drain and “into the bowl and down the pipe.” Other pictures zoomed in on red flecks on the bottom of both the front doors, and on the bricks and window pane adjacent to the left door, closer to the ground.
The photos also captured what Robinson described as “medical debris” scattered across the ground, including packaging and tissues.
Court was also shown photographs of Weir’s police uniform, his duty belt and his extendable baton. Robinson said he wanted to capture “red staining” on the inside of the right leg of Weir’s trousers and “red dots and stains” on the inside sole of Weir’s right boot. He also pointed to a red stain on the side of the extended baton.
Weir has not been charged by the SIU in Abdi’s death. Court heard earlier this month that Weir attempted to arrest Abdi at a nearby Bridgehead coffee shop that July morning in response to a report of sexual assaults. Abdi ran away and Weir chased him on foot to 55 Hilda St. Montsion arrived shortly after that.
Trial resumes after adjournment due to video disclosed at last minute
The judge presiding over Montsion’s trial adjourned proceedings on Feb. 6, just three days in, after the defence team raised concerns about an allegedly “altered” and “slowed down” copy of CCTV video footage that captured the struggle between Abdi and the two officers, which was only disclosed to the Crown and to the defence the day before trial began.
That copy of the original footage, captured by a security camera in the lobby of 55 Hilda St., was shown to the lead pathologist in the case at a Nov. 15, 2016 meeting at SIU offices, the defence team argued.
Dr. Christopher Milroy then changed his opinion on Abdi’s cause of death from “accident” to “homicide” after viewing the allegedly slowed down footage, the defence claimed.
As a result of the last-minute disclosure — described by Montsion’s lawyers as a “Sunday bombshell” — the defence said on Feb. 5 it was considering filing a lost or destroyed evidence application; an application seeking to preclude Crown counsel from relying on Milroy’s final report or “any opinion that premised on that second video;” and a charter application alleging abuse of process by the SIU “in misleading the Crown, Dr. Milroy, the defence, defence experts and ultimately the court.”
On Feb. 6, prosecutor Roger Shallow said the Crown had received “material” that it expected would “unequivocally put to rest these serious allegations about the integrity of the video evidence and the SIU,” and that the material had been shared with the defence. Court hasn’t heard anything further about that new information.
The original CCTV footage is expected to be a central piece of evidence in the trial.
Robinson’s testimony is expected to continue when trial resumes on Tuesday morning.