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.
Category Archives: Ottawa
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).
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
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.
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
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.
Suicide by cop is a dubious designation, one of those excuses police apply to justify publicly their actions when they kill civilians. The notion is dubious for a number of reasons. First, it is applied after the fact in a range of diverse circumstances including those where the victim has not expressed suicidal wishes (or on the contrary is even happy in life) or is not posing a threat to anyone. Do not forget that the police attempted to use this defense to protect killer cop James Forcillo who shot Sammy Yatim multiple times while the youth was alone in an empty street car. Second, even if someone wishes to “die by cop” does not mean that the police are justified in killing them or should be expected to kill them. It speaks volumes that anyone could expect with probability that an encounter with police would end with the police taking their life. Third, if someone is experiencing mental health issues, the police are not the appropriate response and if they are called for such issues health care providers should be involved rather than police ready to shoot to kill. Fourth, in suicide the person takes the decision and acts. In “suicide by cop” the cops can choose not to shoot and kill the person. Someone is taking the active decision to kill you in a case where they could choose not to. Finally, “suicide by cop” should never be applied as a justification for police killing civilians as it is now. The facts of each encounter matter.
These are all issues to keep in mind when details emerge of the killing by Nunavut RCMP of a 39-year-old man in Hall Beach, in the Qikiqtaaluk region of Nunavut, a town with a population of about 750. RCMP encountered the man over the evening of Monday, May 1 and Tuesday, May 2, 2017. Police claim they were alerted to the man around 11:30 PM after receiving a call about an online Facebook live video in which the man ranted about “suicide by cops.” The man is alone and crying in the video. Police promptly attended the house where the man was present, by himself, and shot and killed him.
This is the third killing of a civilian by police since December 2016 in the small northern territory. As in other recent cases in which Nunavut RCMP have killed a civilian, the Ottawa Police Service will carry out the investigation into their fellow police officers. This is in no way an independent investigation and as in all cases of police “investigating” police lacks all credibility.
Ottawa Police Sell “United We Stand” Bracelets Supporting Cop Daniel Montsion who Killed Abdirahman Abdi
Observant commentators have suggested that police actually operate like a gang, closing ranks unquestioningly to support their own no matter how egregious the member’s actions may have been. While there is some truth in this, police are not quite like gangs in that they lack the honor of gangs who at least have some limits, some acts they will not tolerate among members. If anyone needs a case in point they need only look at the dubious activities of the Ottawa Police Association and Ottawa police officers in response to the killing of Abdirahman Abdi, a Somalian-Canadian man suffering mental distress who was beaten to death by Constable Daniel Montsion in July of 2016. Montsion had previously expressed a problem with a suspect who was Somalian.
On Wednesday, March 29, 2017, the first day of preliminary court procedures leading to Montsion’s trial for manslaughter, several Ottawa police officers wore blue and black rubber wristbands stating “United We Stand #1998.” The number printed on the band is actually Montsion’s badge number. The rubber band bracelets are being sold for $2 apiece with the money going to the Ottawa Police Association.
This open show of support for a killer cop whose brutal beating of the defenseless man was partly caught on video is a tasteless and provocative move in a context that is already heated and where community members have mobilized against racist policing. It is an arrogant move that is clearly an attempt to put pressure on the court even as police say they do not comment on cases before the courts.
Incredibly the cops are using the excuse that it is a measure to address the trauma officers face on the job. This is part of a growing campaign to pose police crimes as primarily being about traumas for officers who then need more public money and resources for support. Some paid “criminologists” are being mustered to lend a veneer of credibility to the trauma money appeals led by police associations. Those same bought “criminologists” show little to no regard for the victims of police violence.
A spokesperson for the Justice for Abdirahman Abdi campaign, William Felepchuk, calls the bracelets an “outrage.” He notes that the nature of the crime Monsion is accused of is severe and suggest the move is an interference in the criminal justice process. Felepchuk further notes that police would not be so welcoming of civilians wearing such arm bands in cases of someone accused of killing a police officer.
Police always have pressures, both overt like the arm bands and covert like implied non-cooperation with prosecution, to apply on broader criminal justice processes. One should not expect anything resembling justice from the state in its dealings with killer cops.
The killing of Abdirahman Abdi, a 37-year old Somali Canadian man, by Ottawa Police Constable Daniel Montsion on July 24, 2016, was a particularly vicious and brutal affair which sparked community outrage and a community movement for “Justice for Abdirahman.” Montsion repeatedly delivered heavy baton blows to the defenseless man. On Monday March 6, 2017 Ontario’s police oversight agency, the SIU (Special Investigations Unit) brought three charges against Constable Montsion: manslaughter, aggravated assault, and assault with a weapon. Laying of charges against police officers who kill civilians is a too rare outcome in Canada.
The lethal beating of Abdi, a man struggling with mental health issues, while neighbors called out for the officers to stop was partially caught on video. Neighbors looked out for Abdi who was well known in the community and informed officers of his mental health issues and likely fear and lack of understanding of police commands. They implored officers to back off the frightened man but the assault with baton persisted. Abdi was pronounced dead in hospital the following day but family members say hospital officials told them the man was dead forty-five minutes before he arrived at the hospital.
Constable Montsion is a member of the Ottawa police direct action response team (DART) which targets gang but was assisting on patrol when he killed Abdi. Montsion has been on desk duty throughout the investigation and is now scheduled to appear at the Ontario court of justice in Ottawa on March 29. A second officer, Constable Dave Weir was involved in the assault on Abdi but the SIU concluded he was only a witness officer.
As reported previously by killercopscanada Constable Montsion was policing a neighborhood of Somali migrants despite having a history of violence against Somali-Canadians. By his own admission he had “panicked” when faced with a suspect of Somali background in a case that might also have included the planting of evidence by police.
The police assault on Abdi began with a 911 call from a Bridgehead coffee shop in Abdi’s neighborhood in Ottawa. What happened there is still unclear but owner Tracey Clark says Abdi had made some customers feel uncomfortable or harassed. In her words:
“He would stand and stare at customers, or get a little bit too close, and we were beginning to hear from customers that it was making them feel uncomfortable. And so we had started to have those conversations where, ‘Are you aware of this behaviour, could we ask you not to do that?’ So there were some interventions like that that had taken place.” (quoted in Nease and Pritchard 2017)
After leaving the coffee shop Abdi apparently attempted to return to his apartment three blocks away. On the way he was intercepted by police. One witness, Ross McGhie reports that Abdi appeared fearful of receiving baton blows from the officer who clearly held a baton, and as a result picked up a piece of foam from the street (Nease and Pritchard 2017). He held it over his head in a defensive, not offensive, posture.
At some point, at the corner of Wellington and Hilda streets near Abdi’s apartment, the first officer tried to grab Abdi who dropped the foam and tried to run to his apartment building on Hilda Street. The officer prevented this by striking Abdi a few times on his legs, arms and upper body according to the witness Ross McGhie (Rease and Pritchard 2017). The officer also shouted at the stricken man.
At that point a second officer, said to be Constable Montsion, arrived on scene in a cruiser. He apparently moved very quickly and aggressively against the victim. In the words of McGhie: “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” (quoted in Nease and Pritchard 2017).
Family lawyer Lawrence Greenspon noted that family members had to endure much during the lengthy SIU investigation. In his words:
“It’s been extremely difficult. You not only have the incredible grief that we really can’t understand unless we go through it ourselves, and I don’t wish that on anybody. You have this grief of losing a son, brother, and it’s magnified … the public light has been shining on this death, this tragedy, for eight months now.” (quoted in Nease and Pritchard 20017)
Greenspon said that the family would likely be pursuing a civil lawsuit as well.
The SIU report is with Ontario’s attorney general, at present Ottawa Centre Member of Provincial Parliament Yasir Naqvi but it is not clear if Naqvi will make the report public or not. This has been a case of great public interest and concern. More than is often the case in situations involving police killings of civilians in Canada.
The police killing of Abdirahman Abdi was the focus of important public mobilizations and campaigns, including mobilizations of “Black Lives Matter.” Large demonstrations calling for “Justice for Abdirahman” were held in Ottawa, Montreal, and Toronto. #justiceforabdirahman gained much attention on social media.
Nease, Kristy and Trevor Pritchard. 2017. “Ottawa Police Officer Charged with Manslaughter in Man’s 2016 Death.” CBC News. March 6. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/abdirahman-abdi-ottawa-police-siu-findings-1.4008142
killercopscanada, 2016. “Constable Montsion’s Somali-Canadian Prroblem: The Killing of Abdirahman Abdi.” killercopscanada. September 9. https://killercopscanada.wordpress.com/category/justiceforabdirahman/