Defence lawyers for Const. Daniel Montsion submitted records in court on Wednesday that they argue will “conclusively demonstrate” the Oakley “assault gloves” the police officer wore during Abdirahman Abdi’s fatal arrest on July 24, 2016, were purchased by the Ottawa Police Service and issued to him as “protective equipment” by his supervisor.
Montsion has pleaded not guilty to charges of manslaughter, assault and assault with a weapon in Abdi’s death three years ago.
Abdi suffered a heart attack outside 55 Hilda St. and was pronounced dead in hospital the day after the violent confrontation with Montsion and another officer.
Questions were subsequently raised about where Montsion had acquired the knuckle-plated gloves he was wearing when he arrested Abdi and dealt several blows to Abdi’s legs and face, which the defence has argued were “distraction blows.”
Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit (SIU), which investigated the arrest and charged Montsion in 2017, obtained receipts and documents showing the accused officer’s gloves were purchased by his employer and issued to the specialized unit in which he worked, defence lawyer Solomon Friedman argued.
But “the Crown chose not to tender them as evidence,” court heard.
“So, instead, the defence will and, by so doing, will put to rest any suggestion that our client’s gloves were not issued or approved by the Ottawa Police Service. He was wearing the equipment purchased for him by his supervisor,” Friedman said.
The Crown has argued that Montsion committed an “unjustified assault” on Abdi during the arrest outside 55 Hilda St. — and, in doing so, “used reinforced knuckle-plated gloves as a weapon.”
The Ottawa police purchased multiple pairs of “S.I. assault gloves” from Oakley in 2015 and 2016, according to the sales and reimbursement records Friedman filed as evidence in court on Wednesday.
Copies of the receipts specifically detail an online order for 11 pairs of the gloves in March 2015 and another purchase of two pairs from an Oakley retail store in Ottawa in June 2016.
Each pair of gloves cost $56, according to the receipts.
The defence’s case began in an Ottawa courtroom on Wednesday, more than seven months after the trial began.
In his opening statement, Friedman said the defence has elected to call evidence in Montsion’s trial “to ensure the court is not left with a distorted or incomplete version of the events of July 24, 2016.”
Defence witness describes fight at Bridgehead café
The defence called its first witness to the stand on Wednesday morning: Matthew Rousselle, a paramedic who testified about what he witnessed at the Bridgehead Coffee shop in Hintonburg when he was off-duty the morning of July 24, 2016.
Prior to his arrest, court has heard, Abdi was at the café, where is he alleged to have groped several women inside and outside the building.
Rousselle testified that when he entered the Bridgehead, a couple of people were consoling one woman who was crying, but he said he didn’t know what had happened.
The advanced-care paramedic said he was in line for less than a minute before he heard some women begin “screaming” and saw some people rush outside.
Rousselle said he went outside onto the sidewalk and saw three or four men who had allegedly pushed Abdi into a bike rack. Some of them punched Abdi in the chest and arms, court heard, and Rousselle said he intervened and pulled one man off Abdi.
“He appeared to be in some kind of distress of some kind. I could tell … something was going on with him, I just don’t know what it was,” the witness said.
Rousselle also told court he recognized Abdi from an earlier visit to the coffee shop weeks before. Abdi, at that time, was calm and non-verbal and was staring at people, Rousselle said.
In his opening statement, Friedman said the defence called Rousselle “to offer further insight into Mr. Abdi’s medical condition well before he ever encountered our client or Constable Weir.”
Court has heard that Abdi suffered a cardiac arrest at some point while lying handcuffed on the ground outside 55 Hilda St. The court has also heard Abdi had an undiagnosed and serious heart condition — one that put him at risk of a heart attack “at any time,” according to a top forensic pathologist.
Crown prosecutors have argued that the physical and emotional stress caused by Montsion’s blows to Abdi’s face and body contributed to Abdi’s fatal heart attack.
Proceedings will continue Thursday. It’s not expected the defence will call any other eye witnesses to the stand.