Somali-Canadian man who died after altercation with police laid to rest
OTTAWA -- Family, friends and members of Ottawa's tight-knitted Somali community are laying to rest a Somali-Canadian man who died after a confrontation with police last Sunday.
A funeral service is being held for 37-year-old Abdirahman Abdi, who was taken down by police officers on a sidewalk following a disturbance call.
Naeem Malik, president of the Ottawa Muslim Association, says the community has turned out in solidarity.
"The family needs our support because they are not only Somali, they are Muslim," he said.
"So we are here with them."
The body was brought into the mosque in a plain plywood box shrouded in a green blanket adorned with golden Arabic lettering.
Initial reactions to the death were shock and horror, Mohamed Sofa said Friday in a statement on behalf of the Ottawa Somali community.
"We were left traumatized, left to make sense of such senseless violence.
"The pain is real, it is felt deeply and by many. This last week, we have seen tears shed, and emotions expressed. People shared stories of Abdirahman's kind nature and gentleness of his soul," the statement said.
"While the circumstances that brought us here today are very troubling, the outpouring of love and support for the family is a testament to the beauty of Ottawa."
Ottawa police Chief Charles Bordeleau has said officers were responding to 911 calls Sunday regarding "multiple assaults" at a local business and, after trying to make an arrest, officers chased Abdi on foot.
Ontario's Special Investigations Unit says there was a "confrontation" outside the apartment building down the street, where Abdi lived with his family, and he suffered medical distress.
Several dozen people gathered for a vigil in Montreal on Thursday night, saying Abdi's death highlights a widespread culture of police brutality that disproportionately victimizes people who are black or mentally ill.
The Canadian Association of Somali Lawyers, a national organization representing Somali-Canadian lawyers from across the country, has said the incident is part of a larger pattern.
"Too often, police officers do not de-escalate or take appropriate care when dealing with African-Canadians, let alone African-Canadians with disabilities or in mental distress," its president, Billeh Hamud, said in a statement Tuesday.