FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 19, 2020 – Ottawa, Ontario – Representatives of Ottawa’s Black communities send condolences to the family of Anthony Aust who fell to his death following an Oct. 10 Ottawa police raid on his 12th floor apartment. We also call on Ottawa Police Chief, Peter Sloly, to meet with us to answer several questions about Anthony’s death.
On Wednesday, Oct. 7, 23-year-old Anthony Aust fell to his death after several heavily armed officers with the Ottawa Police tactical unit burst through the front door of his 12th-floor Ottawa apartment.
Aust’s family were worried about his mental health and that he was falling into a depression. His mother, Nhora Aust, said he was terrified of his peers, terrified of the police and terrified of jail. She also said police told her they were looking for a gun and cocaine but she wasn’t told if they found anything.
She’s not confident that Ontario’s police watchdog will lay charges in her son’s death. Neither are we. The investigation will take months to complete and, in 2019, the Special Investigations Unit said only five per cent of SIU cases result in charges.
Ottawa is awaiting tomorrow’s verdict in the trial of Ottawa police constable Daniel Montsion in the 2016 death of Abdirahman Abdi. The SIU led the investigation.
In 2010, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that such “no-knock” warrants could be used in urgent cases. But in February of this year, an Ottawa judge ruled that the police had violated one woman’s charter rights after raiding her home using “dynamic entry”, as the method is known.
Despite the ruling, the Ottawa Police Service has defended the practice and said it will continue using the entry when they think it’s necessary to ensure public and officer safety or if there is a risk that a target might destroy evidence.
However, defence lawyer Mark Ertel, who won the February Superior Court case, said search warrants are often granted based on intelligence from unsavoury characters who may not be telling the truth. He said it’s often from people paid to provide information to police or who will have charges withdrawn if they provide information. Ertel also said the ruling doesn’t appear to have curbed the use of surprise raids by the Ottawa police – but Aust’s death could be a turning point.
Given all this, Aust’s death raises a number of questions:
- If one of the aims of dynamic entry is ensuring public safety, why did the police seemingly disregard the safety of Aust’s family by raiding his apartment when his family, including his 12-yr-old brother and his grandmother were home?
- As Aust was also a member of the public, did the police not have an obligation to keep him safe, even as they attempted to take him into custody?
- Given the May 2020 falling death of Regis Korchinski-Paquette, and the fact that, like Korchinski-Paquette, Aust was known to be experiencing mental health issues, why didn’t the police anticipate Aust might jump and be prepared for that with something outside to break his possible fall? Did they speak with his family before the raid to assess his mental state?
- Do police keep stats, by race, on how often they use dynamic entry?
- Since Aust was wearing a GPS ankle monitor as part of his bail conditions, why couldn’t the police have chosen to work with his parole officer to find a time to apprehend him that would put as few others at risk as possible?
- Do the police believe that avoiding lost evidence is worth endangering innocent people’s lives?
- How often are the police basing their raids on information from “unsavoury” characters?
- Who authorized the raid?
We call on Chief Sloly to promptly respond to our request to meet and provide answers to these questions.
In solidarity with the Aust family,
613-819 Black Hub, Parents for Diversity, African Canadian Association of Ottawa, Justice for Abdirahman Coalition, North-South Development Roots and Culture Canada
Robin Browne, co-lead, 613-819 Black Hub, 613-252-4232, firstname.lastname@example.org