By the Punch Up Collective
On July 24, 2016, Ottawa resident Abdirahman Abdi, a Somali-Canadian man, was killed at the hands of the Ottawa police. Now, more than two years later, Daniel Montsion, an Ottawa cop, is about to stand trial for Abdi’s death.
Montsion’s trial offers an important moment to critically analyze what the Ottawa Police Services (OPS) actually stands for. Tracing a history of OPS violence makes it clear that, as horrific as this incident was, it is not an isolated case. Abdi’s death is the just the latest in a long history of abuse and violence committed by Ottawa’s police force.
In compiling this timeline, we have not always been able to identify whether the victims of police violence described here are racialized. Yet of those we have identified, it is striking how many racialized folks appear. You don’t have to be racialized to be subject to Ottawa police violence, it seems – but it helps.
November 18, 1988: Earl Edwards, Jamaican immigrant and choir master, was shot from behind and wounded in the hand during a traffic stop on Hunt Club Road. Edwards and his wife Ena were stopped by OPP Constable Arno Giek. Earl Edwards was shot while seated in his car, and Ena Edwards was detained in the back of the police cruiser. (1)
September 26, 1991: Vince Gardner, a Jamaican immigrant, was shot and killed by Constable John Monette. Gardner was admitted to Ottawa Civic Hospital where he underwent three operations. Gardner died in hospital, without leaving, on November 16.
The shooting occurred during a botched drug raid on a private residence on Gould Street, and after a series of escalating racist attacks by neighbours on the home’s occupants, including having trash dumped in the yard and car headlights smashed. Constable Monette claimed he mistook a guitar for a firearm and was cleared of all charges, including manslaughter.(2)
March 25, 1994: Marc Valin died in custody following a beating by police. Valin had complained to friends in letters and to his cellmate at OCDC that he had not felt well since his arrest in on February 24, 1994, during which police beat him. OCDC staff reportedly didn’t believe Valin, and gave him Tylenol. He was admitted to hospital on March 15 and died 10 days later.(3)
March 20, 1995: Wayne Johnson, a Black man, died after being pepper sprayed and chased by police to the Rideau River. He fell in and drowned. According to reports, police failed to assist him. Police were unable to find Johnson’s body. It was found five days later by friends of Johnson, just three metres from where he was last seen.(4)
July 1995: Terry Norris was pepper sprayed by police during an altercation at a gas station. He died shortly thereafter.(5)
July 1995: Ottawa police forced their way into the apartment of Jean-Paul Gravelle and pepper sprayed him, believing he was an individual that had dined and dashed from a restaurant on Somerset. Police later admitted that Gravelle, a white man, was not the individual they were looking for.
Gravelle sued police over long-lasting health complications resulting from the assault. Police sued the pepper spray manufacturer, blaming the company for the impacts on Gravelle’s health.(6)
July 16, 1995: Troy Emmerson was shot and killed by Constable Dan Delaney outside his apartment following a three hour stand-off, during which Emmerson refused to drop a gun he was aiming at his own head.(7)
February 24, 1997: Charles Cooper, a white man, died after being shot in the chest with a “less lethal” metal bean bag while inside his apartment. At the time of the shooting, Cooper was self-harming with a knife.(8)
November 25, 2000: While handcuffed, Julie Cayer had her head repeatedly slammed against the hood of a police squad car by Constable Martin Cardinal. The incident was caught on film and, after lengthy court proceedings, Cardinal eventually pled guilty. He was sentenced to 75 days community service and also lost eight days of pay.(9)
June 22, 2001: Benoit Aube was run over by a police van while allegedly fleeing a robbery on a bicycle. Aube was trapped under one of the police van’s wheels for 30 minutes. He died in hospital on June 24.(10)
July 4, 2001: Stephane Drouin, a 19-year-old white man, died in hospital after his van crashed into a hydro pole on Canada Day, during a high speed chase by police.(11)
August 23, 2008: Roxanne Carr had two bones broken in her wrist, was restrained and led by a belt, and was left naked in her cell for more than two hours following her arrest. Footage of the assault in the cellblock was made public.(12) Carr was arrested and thrown to the ground eight minutes after police arrived at her rental unit, where she was chatting with friends on the porch. Police were called by Carr’s boyfriend, who wanted her to leave the building.
Police charged Carr with resisting arrest and assaulting an officer, charges that were eventually withdrawn. A judge eventually ruled that the Ottawa Police had no grounds to arrest Carr and must pay her $254,000 in damages. No officers were charged or held responsible for their involvement.
September 2, 2008: After complying with an order to kneel on the floor of her cell, a half-naked woman, unnamed in media accounts, was kicked and tasered twice by Sergeant Steve Desjourdy. Desjourdy pled guilty during a Police Services Act hearing, and was demoted to Constable for 90 days.(13)
September 28, 2008: After being stopped and questioned by police while walking home from a party, Stacey Bonds, a Black woman, was taken to the police station. There she was kicked twice by Special Constable Melanie Morris, pinned to the floor with a riot shield, and held down by three male officers while Sergeant Steve Desjourdy cut her shirt and bra off with a pair of scissors. Bonds was then left half-naked in her cell for three hours and later charged with assaulting an officer.
The charges were thrown out, with the judge stating there was no reason for Bonds’ arrest in the first place. Sergeant Desjourdy was eventually docked 20 days pay. No other officers were held responsible for the assault.
July, 2009: While being dragged by officers to his cell, Terry Delay, a homeless Indigenous man, was kicked twice by Special Constable Melanie Morris. Police charged Delay with assaulting an officer. Video was released of the incident. A judge threw out the charge against Delay.(14)
August 13, 2011: Witnesses say they saw police trip and push Hugh Styres, a homeless man, into the pavement in Sandy Hill, causing a pool of blood to form. Constables Colin Bowie and Thanh Tran were eventually acquitted of all charges.(15)
July 24, 2016: Following an incident at a local coffee shop, Abdirahman Abdi, a Somali-Canadian man, was pursued by two police officers and intercepted outside his apartment building. According to eye-witness accounts recounted in the Ottawa Citizen, Abdi was “pepper-sprayed, beaten with a baton and punched as officers arrested him. Some pleaded with officers to stop and tried to alert them that Abdi was mentally ill.”(16)
At the time of Abdi’s beating, Montsion was wearing so-called “assault gloves” designed with a thick carbon layer to mimic the effect of brass knuckles. Abdi was taken to hospital, where he was pronounced dead the following afternoon.(17)
December, 2017: Constable Carl Keenan was suspended with pay after being charged with assaulting a woman while off duty. During an internal investigation by Ottawa Police, two female officers came forward with sexual harassment complaints against Keenan. They stated the harassment took place during their training and while Keenan was assigned as their coach officer.(18)
September 19, 2018: Constable Eric Post was arrested by the Ottawa Police sexual assault unit and charged with 32 criminal acts, including sexual assault, forcible confinement, harassment, uttering threats, intimidation, and pointing his firearm at an individual during an on-duty sexual assault.(19)
October 1, 2018: Police charged Sergeant Aasim Ansari with sexual assault. The charges allege Ansari was on duty in the area of a residence for people from Nunavut who are in Ottawa for medical treatment when the assault occurred.(20)
This timeline is a prelude to a more in-depth article Punch Up Collective put together on the Ottawa Police Services, which is now available here:
1. Upton, Sean. “Manotick OPP officer faces charge in shooting.” Ottawa Citizen, 21 November 1989. www.newspapers.com/image/463698167/?terms=earl%2Bedwards
2. Abraham, Carolyn. “Anatomy of a botched drug bust: The shooting of Vincent Gardner.” Ottawa Citizen, 13 February 1993. www.newspapers.com/image/464633270/?terms=vincent%2Bgardner
3. Kainz, Alana. “Policy probe brutality claim in man’s death.” Ottawa Citizen, 28 March 1994. www.newspapers.com/image/464876753/?terms=marc%2Bvalin
4. Stern, Leonard. “Trouble plagues dispirited police force; Leadership, morale problems dog chief who is grappling to unite officers.” Ottawa Citizen, 12 May 1995.
5. McGregor, Glen. “Police ill-trained in use of pepper spray: Company: Ottawa-Carleton Police Services Board sues U.S. manufacturer for providing faulty spray device.” Ottawa Citizen. 19 February 2000.
6. McGregor, Glen. “Ottawa police sue maker of pepper spray: If ‘harmless’ product hurt innocent man, blame supplier, not us, force argues.” Ottawa Citizen, 2 June 1999. www.newspapers.com/image/465844526
7. Aubry, Jack and Sandra Gionas. “Police did not need to kill son, man says; Single bullet ends 3-hour standoff with young father.” Ottawa Citizen, 17 July 1995. www.newspapers.com/image/464836484/?terms=troy%2Bemmerson
8. Stern, Leonard. “Beanbag gun has spotty history : `Non-lethal’ weapon called unacceptable by police conference.” Ottawa Citizen, 27 February 1997.
9. “Ottawa police officer pleads guilty to assault.” CBC News, 26 July 2005. www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa-police-officer-pleads-guilty-to-assault-1.567148
10. “Man run over by police dies.” Ottawa Citizen. 24 June 2001. www.newspapers.com/image/466536855/?terms=benoit%2Baube
11. Sands, Aaron. “‘They killed my brother’: Family of man killed in police chase demands ‘justice.’ Ottawa Citizen. 4 July 2001. www.newspapers.com/image/466536449/?terms=stephane%2Bdrouin
12. “Carr cellblock video no. 1.” Ottawa Citizen. 25 February 2013. www.youtube.com/watch?v=cAreMIKzm7o
13. Dimmock, Gary. “Desjourdy had previous run-in for how he treated female prisoner.” Ottawa Citizen. 20 May 2014. ottawacitizen.com/news/local-news/desjourdy-had-previous-run-in-for-how-he-treated-female-prisoner
14. “Video of homeless man kicked released.” CBC News. 1 December 2010. www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/video-of-homeless-man-being-kicked-released-1.877111
15. “Police officers found not guilty of assaulting homeless man.” CBC News. 11 October 2013. www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/police-officers-found-not-guilty-of-assaulting-homeless-man-1.1991160
16. Yogaretnam, Shaamini. “Updated: Ottawa police officer facing manslaughter charge in death of Abdirahman Abdi.” Ottawa Citizen. 6 March 2017. ottawacitizen.com/news/local-news/ottawa-police-officer-to-be-charged-with-manslaughter-in-death-of-abdirahman-abdi
17. Nixon, Sarah. “Charges in Abdi case still a long way from justice.” The Leveller 9:6, Spring 2017. www.leveller.ca/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/LEVELLER-9.6-FINAL-WEB.pdf
18. Trinh, Judy. “Police officer facing assault charge also accused of workplace sexual harassment.” CBC News. 4 January 2019. www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/ottawa-police-criminal-trial-assault-bodily-harm-woman-1.4964964
19. Britneff, Beatrice. “11 new charges against Ottawa police officer accused of sex assault, uttering threats.” Global News. 28 September 2018. globalnews.ca/news/4495728/11-new-charges-ottawa-police-officer
20. Yogaretnam, Shaamini. SIU charges Ottawa police sergeant with sexual assault. Ottawa Citizen. October 1, 2018. ottawacitizen.com/news/local-news/siu-charges-ops-sergeant-with-sexual-assault