Abdirahman Abdi showed no aggression during arrest, witness testifies

Abdirahman Abdi was evasive but not aggressive toward police before he lost consciousness during his violent arrest, a witness told court Tuesday.

Wendy Dunford is the first Crown witness to testify they saw Abdi try to avoid police, then take several blows to the head and body before he stopped moving.

The 37-year-old was declared dead in hospital on July 25, 2016, the day after his arrest.

Ottawa police Const. Daniel Montsion has pleaded not guilty to manslaughter, aggravated assault and assault with a weapon in Abdi's death.

"I never saw Mr. Abdi make an aggressive move toward either police officer," Dunford told the court. "But he wasn't compliant."

Abdi carried weighted mat

Duford and her husband, Ross McGhie, were walking home after finishing their Sunday morning run when they saw Abdi running down Wellington Street W. toward Hilda Street.

He was carrying a 13.6-kilogram rubber mat used to weigh down temporary street signs over his head.

Dunford said Abdi was being followed by a police officer who shouted for him to stop, but the pursuit wasn't fast-paced.

"He was just kind of plodding along," Dunford said.

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The officer, Const. Dave Weir, was trying to hit Abdi with his baton, she said, and Abdi was using the rubber mat as a shield.

At one point, Dunford said, Weir pushed Abdi hard enough that Abdi dropped to the ground.

She watched as Abdi got to the door of his apartment building, where Weir struck him with his baton several times.

From her vantage point about 40 metres away, Dunford said Abdi didn't appear to fight back.

Punches were 'excessive'

It wasn't long before Const. Montsion arrived, she said.

She told Crown prosecutor Phillip Perlmutter she didn't see Montsion pause before he joined the altercation and began punching Abdi.

She testified Montsion punched Abdi five to 10 times in his head and neck, though video evidence shows Montsion initially punching Abdi only twice.

Abdi then fell to the ground, and Dunford said she couldn't see much of what happened next.

Defence counsel Solomon Friedman asked Dunford if she thought the force was excessive.

"Given that [Abdi] had not shown any aggression, that he was unarmed and they had him more or less cornered, yes," she said.

Dunford's testimony is expected to continue Wednesday.