Const. Daniel Montsion goes into court in Ottawa on Monday, Feb. 25, 2019.
Tony Caldwell / OTTwp
An eyewitness account from a Hintonburg woman who watched the unfolding arrest of Abdirahman Abdi from her apartment window on July 24, 2016 provided court its first accurate document of the timing of that fatal encounter.In her testimony Wednesday, which the Crown initially sought to restrict under a publication ban, Sarah Clements provided court with text messages describing the arrest, which she sent to a friend beginning at 9:46 a.m. that day.Const. Daniel Montsion’s manslaughter and assault trial had earlier heard from a witness, Dr. Darren Courtney, a psychiatrist visiting the city who engaged with Abdi while calling 911 at 9:39 a.m. to report one of several sexual assaults in and around the Wellington Street West Bridgehead café.He testified he also saw the first arrest attempt as Const. Dave Weir arrived and chased Abdi as he fled north across Somerset Square Park before disappearing from his view.“I saw a police officer chasing (Abdi) down Wellington towards Hilda,” testified Clements, who was watching from a second-floor window. “The man was holding an object above his head and the officer was telling him to, ‘Put it down! Put it down!’ The man wasn’t complying.”Clements testified they “jogged” at a “relatively fast pace” out of view as she moved to another window, putting her head down briefly and documenting the encounter in text messages as she saw Montsion arrive.“He (Abdi) was running away,” she testified. “He wasn’t threatening or attacking in any way, or retaliating.”She noted in court Abdi was no longer holding the object, which she pointed out in court as the 30-pound rubber road construction weight entered as evidence earlier at trial.Now looking out her kitchen window, Clements said she saw Abdi “cornered up against the wall” in the stairwell entrance. “One officer had a baton, he was hitting (Abdi) in the legs, and one was punching him in the face … it was a closed-fist punch.”Clements said she saw Abdi lean forward as she quickly looked away to send a text message, and “when I looked up again he was on the ground.”Clements gave a similar account to Ottawa police in a handwritten statement at the scene about an hour after the incident, and another statement later to the Special Investigations Unit.“They punched him in the face to get him to the ground,” one text reads at 9:48 a.m. “He was ignoring instructions.”“He was carrying a thing over his head and one (officer) told him to put it down,” she texted at 9:50 a.m. after her friend asked her if she had any explanation for the disturbance.She offered another explanation in a text seven minutes later, which she testified she must have overheard either from police or from the gathering crowd: “They just said he was hurting people.”CCTV video captures a view of the fatal interaction from inside the 55 Hilda St. apartment lobby, though the video has an inaccurate time stamp, among many other issues that have been contested by the defence since the trial’s earliest days.The Crown had initially sought to restrict the publication of Clements’ name in part on health-related grounds, arguing the stress Clements would suffer in taking the witness stand would be compounded by having her name published alongside the contents of her testimony.Those issues became significant to her evidence under cross-examination by Montsion’s defence lawyer, Michael Edelson, as Clements acknowledged she occasionally suffers “gaps” in her short- and long-term memory from the medications she is prescribed.The Crown had called her mother, Linda Clements, to testify about the impact on her daughter’s well-being during a day of arguments heard Monday as lawyers for this newspaper mounted a successful challenge to the publication ban.Ontario Court Justice Robert Kelly ruled in favour of arguments made by lawyers Richard Dearden and Anastasia Semenova of Gowling WLG, representing Postmedia, with the judge saying the ban would not be “in the proper administration of justice.”Kelly said he considered all factors, including the open court principle “and its importance in our democracy … and considered the impact on freedom of expression of the media and more broadly of the public. …“I do not want to be seen as insensitive to the concerns or the well-being of any witness,” the judge said. “And no one wants to see Sarah Clements suffer harm by participating in the criminal justice process.”email@example.comTwitter.com/helmera