The brother of an Ottawa man who fell to his death from a 12th-floor window following an aggressive police raid said the tactics used by officers likely contributed to his brother’s decision to jump.
Anthony Aust, 23, died October 7, after Ottawa police conducted a search warrant on his family’s apartment on the 12th floor. Aust jumped out of his bedroom below and was pronounced dead at the scene, according to Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit, which investigates when police interactions result in death.
Video footage captured by the family’s camera and obtained by the Ottawa Citizen shows at least eight officers bursting into the apartment and setting off a smoke grenade, shouting, “Police! Don’t move” with their rifles raised in the air.
“If they addressed the situation more calmly, someone in my family would have woken him up and resolved the situation. Instead they come in full force, guns out, expecting the situation wouldn’t go awry,” Raymond Aust, 20, told VICE News. “He was petrified of police and he was in a rush to think.”
Ottawa police declined to answer any of VICE News’ questions because of the SIU investigation. Ottawa Police Association, which represents all officers, did not respond to a request for comment.
The SIU said two officers have been interviewed as witnesses but a “subject officer” (an officer whose conduct may have caused death or injury) has not yet been determined.
Raymond, a Queen’s University student, wasn’t at the apartment when the raid took place, which he said was carried out by 12 officers.
He said police later told his family the warrant was related to drug charges against his brother.
Raymond said at the time of the raid, his stepfather, bedridden grandma, two brothers, and Aust’s girlfriend were home. He said a police officer shoved his stepfather—who has a heart problem—to the ground and told him he was under arrest.
He said when his stepfather said he needed to take his medicine, “the cops just kind of laughed it off.”
Raymond said one officer asked his 12-year-old brother if he sells drugs.
His stepfather heard an officer say “he jumped” but, according to Raymond, police would not elaborate on what they meant. Raymond said his stepfather didn’t learn that Aust had died until Aust’s mother came home crying.
Raymond said his brother has had brushes with the law on and off since he was 13.
According to the Citizen, Aust was awaiting trial on drug trafficking and firearms offences relating to a January traffic stop.
“If you grow up in a tough situation, there’s various paths you can go down and if you’re not provided the right resources, there’s always a chance you make bad mistakes,” Raymond said. “He was a good person. He was just lost.”
Raymond said he believes the fact that his brother was a Black man is a “big part” of why police conducted themselves the way they did.
“There's reasons why people of colour were more marginalized. There’s stereotypes that surround them that basically vilify them, that take away their humanity. Obviously when (police) came in they only saw a record; they didn’t see a person,” Raymond said. “The only goal was to get him; it wasn’t to help him.”
Ottawa-based defence attorney Michael Spratt said the story is another example of why police reform is needed.
Police entered Aust’s apartment using a tactic called “dynamic entry.”
“You can't assume just because this was a dynamic entry that they were dealing with serious charges or a risky situation,” said Spratt. “They use this tactic even in the most banal circumstances.”
Earlier this year, a Superior Court ruling found Ottawa police’s decision to use dynamic entry as the rule rather than the exception amounts to a “casual disregard for Charter rights.”
“The police cannot operate from an assumption that they should break in the door of any residence that they have a warrant to search,” said Superior Court Justice Sally Gomery in her decision.
Ottawa police have faced ongoing criticism over their treatment of racialized residents. This summer, Ottawa police Const. Daniel Montsion went to trial for manslaughter after his 2016 arrest of Abdirahman Abdi, a Black man with mental health issues, resulted in Abdi’s death.
Matt Skof, head of the Ottawa Police Association, was accused of calling a member of the Justice for Abdirahman coalition a “cunt” on a recording. Skof also criticized Ottawa's first Black police chief, Peter Sloly, after Sloly acknowledged systemic racism exists in policing.
In June, an Ottawa woman saId police threatened to charge her for writing “Black Lives Matter” messages in chalk.
Raymond said he’s been receiving condolence messages from friends of his brothers, including one person who said Aust took her in when she was homeless.
“That’s the side you don’t hear when people have a criminal record,” Raymond said. “He was my big brother. He always protected me.”
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