As It Happens

Somali community activist has 'lost all confidence in law enforcement' after Ottawa man's death

Hawa Mohamed of the Canadian Somali Mothers Association says she can't understand why Abdirahman Abdi remained handcuffed while in medical distress, after Ottawa police tried to arrest him.
Abdirahman Abdi died after Ottawa police tried to arrest him. Ontario's police watchdog, the SIU is now investigating. (CBC)

An Ottawa Somali activist says she's dismayed at the amount of force witnesses say was used when police attempted to arrest Abdirahman Abdi.

I couldn't understand how someone . . . who is not a threat anymore is still handcuffed. - Hawa Mohamed

On Sunday, 37-year-old Abdi — who suffered from mental illness — was injured as Ottawa police officers tried to arrest him and was later pronounced dead.

President of the Canadian Somali Mothers Association Hawa Mohamed tells As It Happens co-host Helen Mann she was shocked to see a video showing Abdi in the aftermath of the arrest.

"What I found very difficult to understand — he wasn't moving, he was still handcuffed, his face was still on the floor," she says. 

Nimao Ali issues statement after Somali-Canadian man dies after violent incident with police Sunday. 1:23

Abdi's brother Abdirizaq Abdi told CBC News that he was on the eighth floor of his building when a neighbour yelled that police were arresting his brother Abdirahman.

"I heard the screaming and then I come out and I see my brother lying down, police hitting so badly. Like, I've never seen something like that in my life," Abdi said.

"All of them, they were on top of him. He was under [them] . . . they were hitting like [he was] an enemy. I've never seen something like that."

Matt Skof, president of the Ottawa Police Association, says police were responding to a "violent incident" and that they had to contain it.

"The officers were experiencing a male that was assaultive in behaviour. So they are required, they're bound to react to that, they have to react to that, they have to contain that," Skof said.


Mohamed says she's disappointed that some Ottawa politicians haven't spoken out about the death, including the city's mayor, Jim Watson.

"We didn't hear any word from him," she says.

Mohamed says the Somali community will keep the pressure on authorities during their investigation. 

"Someone has to be accountable to what happened to Abdi. As a community we are not letting go."

With files from CBC News 

For more on this story, listen to our full interview with Hawa Mohamed.


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