Witness describes fatal confrontation between Abdirahman Abdi and police
'From a total layperson perspective, it appeared that it escalated way too
quickly,' man says
By Kristy Nease, Matthew Kupfer, CBC
Jul 26, 2016
Ross McGhie says he and his partner were returning from a run when they saw an
Ottawa police officer pursuing Abdirahman Abdi on Sunday. (CBC)
Ross McGhie and his partner were returning home from a run Sunday when they saw
what investigators are calling a confrontation between Abdirahman Abdi and
police that led to the Ottawa man's death.
Police had been called to a coffee shop in the city's Hintonburg neighbourhood
at about 9:30 a.m. ET.
An officer located and pursued Abdi, a 37-year-old Somali-Canadian man with
mental health issues whose family moved to Canada eight years ago.
McGhie and Wendy Dunford first saw the officer and Abdi near the corner of
Wellington Street West and Garland Street, and said Abdi was holding a piece of
foam construction equipment.
"It was one of the foam panels that's used to support a temporary traffic sign.
He was using it apparently to ward off what he thought would be blows. He had it
over his head and he was using it to deflect advances from the officer. The
officer was following with his baton," McGhie told CBC News in an interview
Abdirahman Abdi, 37, was a Somali-Canadian with mental health issues. His family
moved to Canada eight years ago. He was pronounced dead Monday afternoon after
losing vital signs during a confrontation with police on Sunday morning. (Images
supplied by family)
Then, at the corner of Wellington and Hilda Street, the officer tried to grab
Abdi, who dropped the foam panel and ran to the door of his apartment building
at 55 Hilda St. The officer beat Abdi to the door and prevented him from going
inside, McGhie said, by using a baton "a few times" on Abdi's legs, arms and
upper body while shouting at Abdi to comply.
At that time, another police officer arrived at the scene in a cruiser.
"The officer emerged from that car very rapidly ... pulled up right in front of
the building ... immediately jumped into the altercation and administered a
number of very heavy blows to the head and face and neck of Mr. Abdi," McGhie
It became difficult for the couple to see what was going on, because the steps
leading into the apartment building are below-grade. They heard a man screaming,
but didn't see exactly how Abdi was subdued to the ground and handcuffed. They
did see him on the ground afterwards, not moving, being covered by police,
It took about 15 minutes for paramedics to arrive, begin CPR and take Abdi to
hospital. He was pronounced dead at 3:17 p.m. Monday.
Witness describes Sunday confrontation2:02
'It wasn't really clear to us why'
McGhie said that when he saw the first officer engaging with Abdi, it didn't
seem to be a tense situation.
"When I personally first saw the exchange between he and the officer ... I
didn't really understand what was going on because Mr. Abdi did not seem to be
distressed in any way, shape or form. I think I can even recall a smile on his
face," McGhie said.
"So it was kind of confusing, seeing it all start, because it really didn't look
like what was about to transpire was likely to happen. It really kind of looked
like an officer just approaching somebody who had posed a minor disturbance, so
it was really surprising to see what happened happen."
McGhie said that while he did not see what led to police being called in the
first place, and though he has no knowledge of how police make decisions about
use of force, the police response seemed to be "excessive."
"I think the both of us were really surprised when the second officer arrived
and immediately started beating the suspect with his fists in the face and
head. I mean, Mr. Abdi was not compliant, for whatever reason, but it seemed
that that degree of force for the type of resistance Mr. Abdi was putting up, to
us — again we're not professionals — it seemed extremely violent and extremely
"From a total layperson perspective, it appeared that it escalated way too
quickly for the type of resistance being put up by Mr. Abdi. It went from
zero to 100 very, very, very fast. And it wasn't really clear to us why that
Union says Abdi's behaviour 'assaultive'
Police Association president Matt Skof, speaking earlier in the day
Monday, called the incident a "very difficult scenario for the officers to
was presented to the officer was ... assaultive behaviour ... and
unfortunately, as a result of it, there was physical altercation," he said.
said he didn't know whether the responding officers knew Abdi had any mental
health issues, but said that in the moment, it would not have mattered.
doesn't really in any way change the decision that you are going to have to
make to ensure public safety," said Skof. "The officers are confronted with
violence, they have to deal with it to prevent more injuries to the members
of the public, to the subject or suspect themselves, as well as the
Ontario's police watchdog, the Special Investigations Unit, is handling the
investigation into Abdi's death, which could take months. An autopsy was
scheduled for Tuesday.
is a heartbreaking loss and our thoughts and prayers are with Mr. Abdi's
family at this difficult time," wrote Ihsaan Gardee, executive director of
the National Council of Canadian Muslims, in a statement on Tuesday.
members of the Ottawa Muslim and Somali communities have serious concerns
about how this tragic incident unfolded, including whether prejudice had
something to do with Mr. Abdi's treatment. It is critical that a full and
transparent investigation be swiftly conducted so that Mr. Abdi's family,
and the wider community, get clear answers."
public memorial for Abdi will be held at Somerset Square Park, between
Wellington Street West and Somerset Street West at Spadina Avenue,
on Tuesday at 8:30 p.m.
Commentary by the Ottawa Mens Centre
Ottawa Police treat the Ontario Public as mushrooms.
Perhaps this particular witness will throw some more illumination
propaganda of the Canada's Largest Criminal Organization, The Ottawa Police.