The trial began today for a Manitoba correctional officer charged in the 2021 death of an inmate at Headingley Correctional Centre.
Robert Jeffrey Morden is charged with criminal negligence causing death and failure to provide the necessities of life, in connection with the death of 45-year-old William Ahmo. Ahmo was an inmate who died after an altercation and lengthy standoff took place at the correctional centre on Feb. 7, 2021.
According to an agreed statement of facts, Ahmo lost consciousness and lost a heartbeat for 11 minutes. CPR was performed and he regained a heartbeat and was taken to hospital, where he died a week later.
In court Friday, the Crown called its first witness, a correctional officer who acted as a crisis negotiator during the incident.
Some in the courtroom became emotional as videos of the altercation played. Ahmo is seen in a common area of the jail, becoming agitated and aggressive while other prisoners retreat back to their cells.
The video shows Ahmo in what the witness called “a state of mental distress,” pulling out a hot water tank and yanking TV monitors off the wall, while yelling and throwing items at the glass window in front of the corrections staff.
The standoff lasted hours, before the crisis response unit went in. Ahmo approached them, and the officers were seen hitting him with batons before handcuffing him and holding him to the ground.
Ahmo said, “I can’t breathe,” and the officers were instructed to make sure he can breathe. He said it again once he was upright, and one of the officers said, “If you’re talking to us, you can breathe”.
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The video shows Ahmo continuing to repeat those words until he went unresponsive and a code red was called.
A statement released by Ahmo’s lawyer on behalf of his mother says the family is committed to seeking justice. She remembers Ahmo as a loving father, brother and son. The statement also describes his death as a “horrible nightmare” for the family, and that “the pain and heartache is numbing.”
It further states, “We still don’t have all the answers with what happened to Will. This tragedy has changed our lives forever.”
Numerous videos are expected to be shown throughout the trial, which is set to run until Sept. 8.
— with files from Global’s Marney Blunt.