Category Archives: Ottawa

Killer Cop Daniel Montsion’s Lawyer Claims Vicious Beating Did Not Kill Abdirahman Abdi

There used to be an old saying, “Help the police, beat yourself up.” Now Michael Edelson, the lawyer for killer Ottawa cop Daniel Montsion, wants a court and the public to believe that the vicious beating his client inflicted on 37-year-old Abdirahman Abdi had nothing to do with killing him. Instead, he suggests Abdi died of a heart attack. And he apparently wants people to believe that, even if he did have a heart attack, a severe beating with baton by police did not play a part in it. So, according to copagandist Edelson, Abdi is responsible for his own death: not the brutal assault he was subjected to. Maybe he beat himself to death.

Edelson made these absurd and offensive claims in an attempt to move up the court date for officer Montsion. According to audio court transcripts from the October 20 hearing, Edelson suggested: “This is not a beating that caused the death of Mr. Abdi. Mr. Abdi died of a heart attack. That’s what killed him.” Montsion has been charged with manslaughter, aggravated assault, and assault with a weapon in the killing of Abdi in July 2016.

The lawyer’s request to move the trial date was denied. The 12-week trial remains scheduled to start in February 2019, which is almost three years after Abdi’s killing.

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Letter From SIU Head to Ottawa Police Chief Raises Questions About Transparency and “Old Boy” Favors in Investigations

Two officers of the Ottawa Police Service were involved in a car chase that ended with the death of 24-year-old Alex Cross and an unnamed 39-year-old on April 12, 2016. Cross was killed when a Pontiac G6 plowed into his car on the city’s Vanier Parkway, throwing him and a 21-year-old woman from the vehicle. The woman was  seriously injured. The driver of the G6 died in hospital eight months after the crash. The two officers had chased the G6. They have never been named publicly.

Now the Ottawa Citizen has gained access to a letter sent to Ottawa’s police chief, Charles Bordeleau, by the head of the Special Investigations Unit (SIU), the agency that examines police harm to civilians, offering a stern rebuke of the two officers and raises significant questions about the training that police officers receive and the transparency of investigations into police.

 

The “Old Boys” Letter

The letter from SIU head Tony Loparco to Chief Bordeleau, states that the police chase “clearly” broke Ottawa Police Service policy and “likely also ran afoul” of the provincial regulations that govern police chases, specifically of Ontario Regulation 266/10 under the Police Services Act (Shaw 2017). Additionally, the letter points out that the two officers were “long overdue” for their driver training (Shaw 2017).

Notably the letter was dated April 21, 2017, which was about a month before the two officers were cleared of any wrongdoing by the Special Investigations Unit, the very unit that is raising these issues and reporting them, not publicly but only to the chief of the officers’ force. This raises deep concerns and questions about the transparency of the SIU, its insiders practices and friendly relationships with the forces it is supposed to be independently investigating, favoritism toward killer cops, and the lack of public accountability for police and for the SIU.

This letter was only obtained through the efforts of the Citizen and its filing of a freedom of information request. Loparco’s concerns about the force were not communicated publicly, only to police, and did not seem to inform the SIU assessment of the officers’ actions or the SIU’s decision to let them off, odd given the issues raised by the SIU’s own director in his letter.

 

The “Investigation”: Chasing Training

Four SIU investigators and two forensics investigators were assigned to the case. They interviewed nine civilian witnesses and five witness police officers. On May 17, 2017, thirteen months after the crash, the SIU absolved the two officers of even any suggestion of wrongdoing. Said the SIU news releases at the time: “There is no basis whatsoever to hold either of the two subject officers responsible for the terrible outcomes of the motor vehicle collision” (Shaw 2017).

Yet, this finding is in complete contradiction with Loparco’s own review and assessment of the officer’s actions in this case as communicated to Chief Bordeleau. Loparco’s letter states that, if not for a senior officer calling off the chase, the two officers could have been in criminal jeopardy and this was a “pursuit that never should have occurred” (Shaw 2017).

According to the Ottawa Police Service, its Suspect Apprehension Pursuit policy was developed in conjunction with provincial guidelines that all Ontario police services must follow (Laucius 2017). All officers involved in pursuits are required to have successfully completed a course in pursuit driver training which is approved by the Ontario Police College and they must complete refresher training every two years (Lauicius 2017). Yet the two officers in this case did not follow the policies. Said Loparco, in his letter: “It is my hope that as Chief of the Ottawa Police Service, you will revisit the training that these two subject officers have received” (quoted in Shaw 2017). Yet, really, what does it matter if police disregard policies leading to the deaths and injuries of multiple civilians if they face no negative consequences for their actions?

 

Questions

It is still not known why one officer made the decision to try to stop the Pontiac G6 around 1:15 AM that morning. All that has been said publicly is that it was for “licensing and regulatory” reasons (Shaw 2017). There was no criminal offence suspected. Yet Ottawa police policy only allows for chases in criminal cases, and a handful of other restrictive conditions (Shaw 2017). The officer who initiated the pursuit was not conducting a criminal investigation and already had the license plate number for the G6. Loparco noted that the Ottawa police list of requirements for engaging in a pursuit includes:  “an identified criminal offence; no other alternative for apprehension; a threat to public safety; the vehicles involved in the pursuit are marked and the police officers involved have successfully completed police college driver training and refresher every two years” (Lauicius 2017). The first officer even radioed for assistance leading another officer to join the chase. A road sergeant had to make two calls for the officers to end their pursuit.

In Loparco’s words, the road sergeant insulted the officers from charges but he does not say why since the officers did initiate and pursue a chase improperly. Said Loparco:

 

“I commend him for his commitment to public safety. I am also hopeful that the officers under his command appreciate that his directions insulated them from criminal jeopardy in these circumstances. Their imprudent actions could well have grounded dangerous driving or criminal negligence charges if they had persisted in a pursuit that should never have happened in the first place.” (quoted in Laucius 2017)

 

Here is the thing. The fact that the chase was initiated in “the absence of a criminal investigation,” as Loparco notes in his letter, means, by definition, that the two officers in pursuit broke both their own force’s rules, as well as possibly violating provincial police chase regulations as established in the Police Services Act.

Why did SIU head Loparco raise these serious issues privately with the chief of the force involved, but never publicly? Why did Loparco identify these serious violations yet absolve the officers in spite of his knowledge, beforehand, of these violations?

While the SIU director often sends a background letter to the chief of police in the jurisdiction where the incident occurred, outlining any concerns the director has about the case, after a case ends, this letter was sent beforehand.

 

Conclusion

Where there are questions about a police officer’s actions under terms of the Ontario Police Act, a police chief or a victim’s family member can request an investigation by the Office Of Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD). This office is responsible for receiving, managing, and overseeing public complaints about police in Ontario (Laucius 2017).

At present, there is no legislative mechanism for the SIU to notify OIPRD about concerns it has regarding  misconduct or neglect of duty involving police (Laucius 2017). In consultations with Court of Appeal Justice Michael Tulloch, who led a recent review of police oversight in Ontario, it has been recommended that the SIU be made a “direct complainant” to OIPRD or the Ontario Civilian Police Commission (Laucius 2017).

This case offers some important insights into the nature of police “oversight” in the Canadian state context. It shows the secrecy of investigations into police and the lack of accountability in even obvious or basic situations of police violations of their own limited regulations. It also shows the friendly “old boys” networking that exists between investigative bodies and the police they are supposed to investigate. The state protects the state and informs its members instead of the public.

 

Further Reading

Dawson, Tyler. 2017. “Private Letter to Bordeleau Reveals Officers Lacked Training in Night of Horrific Crash.” Ottawa Citizen. October 19. http://ottawacitizen.com/opinion/columnists/dawson-training-needed-on-police-pursuit-policies

Laucius, Joanne. 2017. “SIU Director Sent Scathing Letter to Ottawa Chief Over Downtown Chase.” Ottawa Sun. October 18. http://www.ottawasun.com/2017/10/18/siu-director-sent-scathing-letter-to-ottawa-chief-over-downtown-police-chase


High Speed OPP Police Chase Results in Death of Sheila Walsh (Sept. 25, 2017, Arnprior)

A high speed police chase by members of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) ended in the death of Sheila Walsh (65), who was not the target of the chase. The driver of the pursued vehicle, a pickup truck, crashed into the vehicle being driven by Walsh with the truck bursting into flames. Walsh was declared dead at the scene. After the crash police told neighbors to evacuate their homes because of gasoline spilling out at the scene.

The Special Investigations Unit (SIU), which examines harm to civilians by police in Ontario, is investigating the high-speed pursuit and how OPP officers responded to the situation. According to the SIU, police claim that at about 3:20 PM on September 25, 2017, the OPP responded to a call about a reportedly stolen vehicle in Eganville, around 130 kilometers west of Ottawa. The 20-year-old driver of the vehicle in question headed toward Arnprior on Highway 60, then to Highway 17, where the OPP began their pursuit. The truck collided with Welsh’s car a bit after 4 PM as she was pulling from her driveway on Daniel Street.

The SIU has assigned five investigators, two forensic investigators, and one collision reconstructionist to investigate the crash and the circumstances leading to it. None of the police claims have been independently confirmed. It is known that the risky and careless police decision to pursue enforcement of property rights has led to the death of a civilian.

One witness put it in clearly sensible term, In the words of Eric Bayley, a Bell Canada worker who observed the chase and crash while working:

 

“The chase should never have happened. If the guy robbed a bank they would have got him sooner or later. It was a stolen vehicle. Big freakin’ deal. Now a poor grandmother, mother, sister is dead. There’s no … way in hell those cops should have been chasing them down that … road.” (quoted in Crawford and Gillis 2017)

 

Continued Bayley:

“There had to have been eight cop cars and three Suburbans wide open going down Daniel Street. It could have been a lot worse. I was talking to my buddy on the phone and I was like, ‘Holy s—t. This is not going to go well.’ He said, ‘What’s going on?’ and I said, ‘There’s a high-speed chase. There’s cruiser after cruiser after cruiser.’” (quoted in Crawford and Gillis 2017)

 

Indeed, a  flag worker on construction site the chase plowed through had to leap to safety.

Ontario’s Police Services Act sets out the rules governing police pursuits. According to the Act, police can pursue or continue pursuit “if the police officer has reason to believe that a criminal offence has been committed or is about to be committed; or for the purposes of motor vehicle identification or the identification of an individual in the vehicle.” The Act also further states police must continually weigh whether “the immediate need to apprehend an individual in the fleeing motor vehicle or the need to identify the fleeing motor vehicle or an individual in the fleeing motor vehicle outweighs the risk to public safety that may result from the pursuit.” Dispatch must be notified of the pursuit and the (Crawford and Gillis 2017).

 

Further Reading

Crawford, Blair and Megan Gillis. 2017. “Eganville Man Faces  Charges After Woman Killed in Crash During Police Chase.” Ottawa Citizen September 27.  http://ottawacitizen.com/news/local-news/witness-describes-devastating-and-deadly-arnprior-crash


SIU Investigates Death of Man Following Call from Police

The Special Investigations Unit, the institution that investigates cases of police harm to civilians in Ontario, is examining the death of a Smiths Falls, Ontario man who apparently shot himself after receiving a phone call from a police officer threatening arrest for undisclosed reasons. On June 3, 2017, an officer of the Ontario Provincial Police phoned the man and spoke to him of a pending arrest, according to the SIU media release. At about 3:20 PM that same day, the man called 911, reporting that he had suffered a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Paramedics and police responded and the man was airlifted to the Civic Hospital in Ottawa. He would die there of his injuries on June 9, pronounced dead at 7:47 PM. The SIU has assigned three investigators and two forensic investigators to examine the circumstances of the man’s death. Nothing has been released publicly about the nature of the police call to the man or the reasons such a call might have been made or such an approach taken by police.


Toronto Police Knew Devon LaFleur Suffered Mental Illness, Had Only Broken Air Gun When They Fired 21+ Shots, Killing Him

Devon LaFleur, a young man struggling with mental health issues, was killed by Toronto police who had been informed of his mental illness and of the fact that the “weapon” he held was a broken pellet gun that did not work. His family had shared that information with Ottawa police who contacted Toronto police about the young man. Still police rained down at least 21 bullets on him striking him eight times. On June 6, 2017 the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) ruled, incredibly, that despite this Toronto police were “more than justified” in killing LaFleur. More than justified.

Rena LaFleur, Devon LaFleur’s mother, attributes the killing of her son to a failure of communication by police and inadequate, improper, or insufficient training of police in interacting with people experiencing mental health issues. LaFleur had schizophrenia and was apparently not on his medication the night police killed him.

According to Rena LaFleur, police disregarded the information they had, instead choosing to take a typically aggressive and confrontational approach with the young man. In her words:

“They created a situation in which they were confronting [him]. I can’t see how they can possibly justify that that is a viable mental health protocol. It’s shameful. I find it’s just a shame and many more people are going to die, especially the most vulnerable people in our communities” (quoted in 2017).

Rena LaFleur reveals that she had spoken with police about her son’s situation and there was a plan to have plainclothes Toronto officers attend the home of a friend with whom Devon LaFleur was meeting. She suggests: “They had a lot of time. They had what seemed to be a good plan in place and they changed it at the last minute” (quoted in 2017). She does not know why.

What did happen is that four uniformed police officers arrived at the friend’s house in marked cruisers. Officers yelled at the distressed man throughout the encounter and drew their guns on him. According to the SIU one officer fired 12 to 13 shots, the second fired eight to nine shots, while the third fired one bullet.

Sascha LaFleur, Devon LaFleur’s sister suggests: “So how do you say [we’ll shoot] to somebody who’s in psychosis, that believes that the angels will protect him from the bullets. You’re provoking him. There needs to be other methods of de-escalation, not lethal force, because you can’t come back from that” (quoted in 2017).

As Rena LaFleur puts it, painfully directly: “He didn’t have to die” (quoted in 2017).

 

Further Reading

Fagan, Laurie and Joe Lofaro. 2017. “It’s Shameful’: Family of Mentally Ill Man Killed by Police Baffled by Lack of Charges.” CBC News. June 7. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/family-disappointed-no-charges-devon-lafleur-1.4148792


Ottawa Police Kill 31-Year-Old Man in Byward Market (June 3, 2017)

The Special Investigations Unit (SIU) is investigating after an Ottawa police officer was involved in an exchange in which two people were killed and one left injured. The details of the killings have not been released publicly but it has been reported by the SIU that a 31-year-old man was killed during an exchange of gunfire with police and another man, 43 years old, was killed during the police pursuit. None of these reports have been independently confirmed. The incident is said to have taken place around 2 AM on the morning of Saturday, June 3 in Ottawa’s popular downtown Byward Market area, a tourist destination not far from the Parliament buildings. The 31-year-old victim was chased by the police officer into a parking garage before he was killed. The injured man was taken to hospital with non-life threatening injuries.

Incredibly, Mathieu Fleury, the city councillor for the market area, wasted no time in playing up the drugs and gangs panics that are often trotted out to justify police violence. In a written statement provided to CBC News, Fleury said the incident “is reflective of the drug and gang activity across our city” (quoted in 2017). This is nothing more than crass fear politics and there is so far nothing to suggest it has any relation to the present case. Neither the SIU nor the Ottawa police have claimed that the Saturday shootings are in any way drug or gang related. The claim is not new though and has been used by the Calgary police chief to justify multiple police killings of civilians in that city (even where they have nothing to do with drugs or gangs).

The SIU has assigned 10 officers to the investigation: three investigators and seven forensics investigators. In addition to the subject officer, two witness officers from the Ottawa police have been identified.

 

Further Reading

CBC News. 2017. “2 Dead, 1 Injured after Shootout in Byward Market.” CBC News. June 3. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/2-dead-byward-market-shooting-1.4144867


20-Year-Old Man Shot and Killed in Encounter with Nunavut RCMP (March 18, 2017)

A 20-year-old man suffered a gunshot wound and died during an encounter with Nunavut RCMP in Pond Inlet. RCMP claim they responded to a report of a man in a cemetery with a firearm. At some point during the encounter the man was shot. He was taken to the local health care facility where he died. Police claim the youth was suicidal but this has not been independently verified. As in other instances of police killings of civilians in Nunavut, the case is being investigated by Ottawa Police Department officers. It is in no way an independent and transparent investigation.