Courthouse boosts security after 'disturbing incident' at Montsion trial
Extra security measures are in place taken to protect Const. Daniel Montsion over the course of his manslaughter trial after a pair of men hurled insults at the Ottawa police officer.
The Elgin Street courthouse has added additional screening at the entrance to the courtroom for the duration of the trial — a measure that's become uncommon ever since metal detectors were installed inside the main entrance of the courthouse several years ago.
The enhanced security comes after two men hurled profanities and insults at Montsion and his legal team as they walked through the courthouse during Tuesday's lunch break.
One man yelled "Hey, murderer!" at Montsion, who is on trial for manslaughter, aggravated assault and assault with a weapon following the violent 2016 arrest of Abdirahman Abdi.
Abdi was pronounced dead one day after the arrest. Montsion has pleaded not guilty to all the charges.
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The second man, who had been sitting in the courtroom for the last several days of the trial, also yelled insults and profanity at the Ottawa police officer.
The men also shouted racist comments at Montsion's lawyers, Solomon Friedman and Michael Edelson.
A police sergeant ushered Montsion away and told the men to leave the courthouse, but they refused until they were threatened with arrest.
Police officers are working to identify the men using the courthouse surveillance camera.
Trial audience mostly well-behaved
"These comments are of serious concern," Friedman told court after the men's outburst. "We refuse to be intimidated."
The Justice for Abdirahman Coalition, which has been watching the trial closely, issued a statement Wednesday saying the group denounces racism and anti-Semitism and was "shocked" to hear about Tuesday's incidents.
"The coalition has encouraged, and continues to encourage, members of the public to attend the trial in a peaceful and respectful manner, and in so doing, has reminded people that aggressive or disrespectful behaviour will not be tolerated," the statement reads.
Every day the courtroom is divided into two groups, with Abdi's supporters on one side and Montsion, his family and supporters on the other.
While the room has been crowded for many of the trial's first 13 days, Justice Robert Kelly said there had been no problems with anyone's conduct during the hearings themselves.
Still, it's not the first time a "security risk" has been brought to the court's attention during the trial, Kelly said. Last week, he said, a member of the public confronted Montsion during a recess.
Kelly said if anything like this happens again, the individual will be asked to leave.
"Incidents like this can quickly escalate, if not explode," Kelly said.
Crown counsel Roger Shallow said while extra security measures are necessary, they should not reflect on the rest of the people attending the trial.
"I should emphasize these measures are the result of actions of one or two individuals," Shallow said.