Constable Montsion’s Somali-Canadian Problem: The Killing of Abdirahman Abdi

Constable Daniel Montsion is one of the Ottawa Police Service officers who killed Abdirahman Abdi, a Somali-Canadian man well known and cared for in his neighborhood. Numerous witnesses to the police killing of Abdi have reported that the officers involved over-reacted with extreme violence against the man despite appeals from neighbors not to hurt the man who struggled with mental health issues which neighbors were aware of. So it is rather disturbing to find out that Constable Montsion was policing a neighborhood of Somali migrants despite having previously, by his own admission, “panicked” during a violent takedown of another Somali-Canadian man in the city.

News of this previous incident of panic in the presence of a Somali-Canadian man was released as part of a court decision acquitting Abdullah Adoyta, (25) on gun charges following an arrest by Montsion. Notably, the judge in that case raised concerns about the reliability of Constable Montsion’s sworn testimony regarding the 2014 police raid that resulted in the arrest of Adoyta. Ontario Superior Court Justice Marc Labrosse noted that Montsion’s story conflicted both with Adoyta’s account and with the testimony of a senior officer on key points (Dimmock 2016).

During the raid and arrest of Adotya, Montsion was one of seven Ottawa police officers to attend the apartment on a raid of supposed gang members. Montsion reported grabbing Adotya’s forearms, raising them up. He claimed that as he did so the man’s raised shirt revealed the silver grip of a semi-automatic handgun. In response to this Montsion said he “sort of panicked” and began kneeing the young man while taking him to ground on the floor of the apartment. Montsion said that in this he did not see the gun fall out and only found it after moving the man while on the floor. He specifically said that he saw the gun only after the man was in handcuffs.

Judge Labrosse did not accept Montsion’s stated version of events. On one hand, his story conflicted with the testimony provided by Sergeant Mark MacMillan. MacMillan reported grabbing the gun before Adoyta had been arrested. Notably MacMillan said that he was so fearful for officer safety that he grabbed the gun with bare hands rather than use gloves to preserve DNA and fingerprint evidence (Dimmock 2016). The judge rejected this also not accepting that officer safety in that case overrode the necessity to preserve evidence.

Even more, Labrosse found that the “manner in which (Adoyta) was taken down, with Const. Montsion raising Mr. Adoyta’s arms in the air and seeing the handgun in Mr. Adoyta’s waistline is difficult to both understand and accept” (quoted in Dimmock 2016). The judge found further that Montsion and MacMillan provided opposed views of the takedown of Adotya. While Montsion claimed a struggle, MacMillan suggested there was none, even telling the court that Montsion held the handgun casually. According to Labrosss: “This is inconsistent with the evidence that Const. Montsion was struggling with Mr. Adoyta” (quoted in Dimmock 2016).

Judge Labrosse concluded as well that Montsion had confused the large, silver Gucci belt buckle worn by Adoyta with a pistol grip. While Montsion claimed he saw a silver grip the grip of the gun provided by police was actually black. Montsion made no mention of a belt buckle.

For his part Adoyta reported that he did not reside in the apartment targeted by police but had merely been invited there by a tenant. He said that he complied with police but was grabbed by Montsion and knocked to the side of a couch. The officer yelled “gun” around ten seconds later and then started kneeing and punching him. It was only then, wth Montsion pulling his hair, that Adoyta saw a gun on the floor some foot and a half away from him (Dimmock 2016). He reported a real need to protect himself from Montsion, not resisting arrest.

Labrosse noted that Adoyta had not seen a gun on the floor before the police entered. Adotya did not suggest that the gun was planted by police. He did ask police to do a fingerprint test to show his innocence with regard to possession of the gun.

Others might wish to ask such a question of planted “evidence.” So too will people have to decide whether to ask about the circumstances of panic in Constable Montsion’s aggressive arrests of two Somali-Canadian men and what role racism or anti-Somali sentiment might have played in his behavior toward those men.

Constable Montsion is currently under investigation by the Special Investigations Unit (SIU), the oversight agency that investigates incidents of police harm to civilians in Ontario. Constable Dave Weir is also under investigation in the killing of Abdirahman Abdi.


Further Reading

Dimmock, Gary. 2016. “Cop in Abdi Case Involved in Previous Violent Arrest of Somali-Canadian.” The Sun. September 8.

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