Ottawa's police chief called for patience and respect Monday after one of his officers was charged in the death of a Somali-Canadian man during a confrontation with two constables outside his home last summer.
Ontario's Special Investigations Unit said that Const. Daniel Montsion has been charged with manslaughter, aggravated assault and assault with a weapon in the death of Abdirahman Abdi in July 2016.
Montsion was one of two officers involved in an altercation in Ottawa with Abdi, a 37-year-old man who lost vital signs during the confrontation before being pronounced dead in hospital the following afternoon.
The SIU — an oversight body that investigates deaths, serious injuries and sexual assaults involving police in the province — said its investigators determined there was enough evidence to lay charges, but no details about what they uncovered were released.
"The SIU investigation determined that in the morning of Sunday, July 24, 2016 . . . there was an interaction between officers and Mr. Abdi . . . and he went into medical distress," the unit said in a statement.
"Mr. Abdi was transported to Ottawa Civic Hospital where he died the next day."
In response to the charges, Ottawa Police Chief Charles Bordeleau acknowledged Abdi's death was "very difficult" for his family and caused a rift in the community and he asked that the courts be allowed to do their job.
"The officer involved, like any member of the community going through a similar process, deserves to be treated fairly," Bordeleau said in a statement.
"Our members are professional and they care about this community."
Lawrence Greenspon, the lawyer for Abdi's family, said he is confident justice will be served in the case, although convictions of police officers charged with serious crimes in Ontario have been rare.
"I'm confident that the criminal justice process will be proceeded through with everybody doing their proper jobs," Greenspon said at a hastily arranged news conference at his downtown Ottawa office.
"In this case, there is a large body of evidence and the Crown is intent on working with that body of evidence."
The confrontation with Abdi took place shortly after police were called to a coffee shop in response to reports of a man causing a disturbance.
Police caught up to Abdi a few blocks away outside his apartment building, where cellphone videos showed the man lying on his stomach, handcuffed, while two constables held him down.
Witnesses at the time reported that a man had groped customers at the coffee shop, although the SIU report into its investigation of what transpired leading up to Abdi's confrontation with the officers is not being released. That report is now in the hands of Ontario Attorney General Yasir Naqvi.
There have been no indications of whether a second officer who was at the scene with Montsion will face any charges, said Greenspon.
Abdi's death sparked multiple protests in Ottawa, as well as in Toronto and Montreal.