A community of Somali migrants in Ottawa, Canada are outraged after they watched police pummeling their longtime neighbor bloody before the mentally ill man died.
A police watchdog group is investigating the violent arrest of Somali-Canadian man Abdirahman Abdi, 37, that led to the man’s death.
“The way the situation played out it seemed like it was because we were immigrants or because we were black,” said Mariam Ali, Abdi’s neighbor who witnessed the incident, in a video interview with the Ottawa Citizen.
Ali heard Abdi’s cries of pain as police beat him and came out of her apartment building to find him “lying in a pool of blood” on the pavement.
“It just felt like we weren’t being treated the way we were supposed to and we weren’t being cared for the way we were supposed to,” she said, adding that they are “sensitive” to police brutality issues after watching news of deadly encounters with cops in the U.S.
The agency probing the arrest, Special Investigations Unit, says that police responded at 9:30 a.m. Sunday to reports that a man was allegedly groping people at a coffee shop in downtown Ottawa, CBC reported.
Witnesses say they saw police chasing Abdi, who family says is nonverbal and on the autism spectrum. When he didn’t comply, cops tackled him and began beating him.
“I told the police he’s a crazy man,” witness and neighbor Zainab Abdallah told the Ottawa Citizen.
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“They hit, they hit, they hit everywhere. Then I was scared. Then I was shocked.”
Abdallah described Abdi as “a quiet, nice guy” who’s “usually fine” and doesn’t cause disturbances.
A witness shot cell phone video of the aftermath of the arrest, which shows Abdi lying motionless and handcuffed on the ground. Blood is smeared all over his shirt.
Two police officers lean over the incapacitated man but do not try and revive him. Nearly 10 minutes passes before an ambulance comes.
“Oh my god he’s going to bleed to death,” a woman can be heard saying on the video. “Where’s the ambulance? He’s going to bleed to death!” she says minutes later.
Another woman is heard screaming at the officers that Abdi is “mentally ill.”
“Why did you treat him like that?” she snaps at the officers.
When EMTs arrived to the scene, the video shows them slowly walk towards the man before they direct a cop to perform CPR.
Family announced Monday that doctors told them that Abdi had died 45 minutes before arriving to the hospital.
“The focus of the family now is to get ready for funeral services and deal with everything else as time comes,” family said in a statement.
The SIU would not comment on the investigation as it is ongoing.