Abdirahman Abdi's death not due to beating, lawyer claims

Abdirahman Abdi did not die from blows from Ottawa police officer during his arrest last summer but rather suffered a heart attack, the officer's lawyer told a judge last week.

Man died of a heart attack during 2016 arrest, says lawyer for Const. Daniel Montsion

Abdirahman Abdi, 37, died after a violent altercation with police outside his apartment building in Ottawa's Hintonburg neighbourhood on July 24, 2016. (Supplied)

Abdirahman Abdi did not die from blows from an Ottawa police officer during his arrest last summer but rather suffered a heart attack, the officer's lawyer told a judge last week.

Michael Edelson, the lawyer for Const. Daniel Montsion, made that argument during a hearing to move the dates of the trial forward into 2018.

"This is not a beating that caused the death of Mr. Abdi. Mr. Abdi died of a heart attack. That's what killed him," Edelson told court, according to audio transcripts of the Oct. 20 hearing.

"And the issue is: did anything my client do [precipitate] that heart attack?"

The Special Investigations Unit (SIU), Ontario's police watchdog, charged Montsion with manslaughter, aggravated assault and assault with a weapon after Abdi's death in July 2016.

The 37-year-old lost vital signs during a confrontation with police outside his Hilda Street apartment.

Officers were attempting to arrest Abdi after being called to a nearby coffee shop that morning, following reports of what the SIU later termed a "man causing a disturbance."

Abdi was later pronounced dead in hospital. His death prompted large protests, both in Ottawa and elsewhere in Canada.

Request to move trial date denied

The Crown had wanted Montsion's trial to be moved to 2018 to comply with a Supreme Court of Canada directive from last July that set specific timelines for how long it could take criminal matters to come to trial.

However, Justice Jonathan Brunet denied the request — meaning that the 12-week trial remains scheduled to start in February 2019, nearly three years after Abdi's death.

Abdi's supporters and family members have criticized that delay, suggesting the distant trial date is evidence those attempts to clear the court case backlog aren't working.