TORONTO (AP) – A Toronto police officer has been found guilty of assault by hitting a young black man who lost an eye when he was arrested in 2016.
Prosecutors alleged Constable Michael Theriault, who was off duty at the time, and his brother Christian chased Dafonte Miller in the early hours of the morning, cornering the then 19-year-old between two homes in Whitby, Ontario and beating him so hard with a pipe that burst his left eye.
The Theriaults have not pleaded guilty to aggravating attacks and obstruction of justice regarding the incident of December 28, 2016 and its aftermath. The judge sentenced the officer and acquitted his brother.
Joseph Di Luca, a judge in Ontario, delivered his verdict on Friday. Michael Theriault is later convicted and sentenced to up to five years’ imprisonment.
Miller thanked the community for support.
“Now an officer has been held accountable to some extent,” he said. “There are many people in my position who don’t get the same support as I do.”
Miller’s lawyer, Julian Falconer, said Miller was on trial just as much as the brothers. Falconer said it all started as a multi-criminal case, including use of a weapon, drug possession, and other charges against Miller. He said his client didn’t deserve to use a steel pipe against him or lose his eye.
“Why was it that someone who suffered catastrophic injuries – his left eye on the hood of a car, parts of his eye that leaked on the hood of the car – could stand up to two criminal cases without members of the public by two people without visible injuries? the Durham service question it? Falconer said.
Falconer called it a cover-up because the Durham and Toronto police had no contact with home affairs. He urged a federal investigation into the beatings of black and native Canadians by the police.
“This is not an isolated incident. This is not about one bad apple. This is happening all over North America, ”said Falconer. “It’s a systemic chronic problem.”
Defense lawyers argued that the brothers Miller and his friends caught a vehicle and acted in self-defense, alleging that Miller was the one handling a pipe.
Reading his decision, Di Luca said he took into account the social context surrounding the case. The case, and others like it, “raises important issues of race and police that need further investigation,” he said.
However, the judge said that his job was not to open a public inquiry into race and police or to make the verdict requested by the public, but to determine the case based on the evidence.
Miller, now 22, testified last fall and denied stealing cars that night.
He told the court he was walking with two friends when the Theriaults started asking them why they were nearby. He said the brothers started chasing him when he and his friends walked away.
Miller said he had no chance of fighting back, only remembering to have seen Michael Theriault with the pipe.
The case sparked protests from members of Black Lives Matter and other anti-racism activists.
“As a chief, I cannot deny that this case will increase tension between the police and the community, especially the black community,” said Toronto police chief Marc Saunders.
Dafonte Miller has sustained a life-changing injury. He lost his eye. ‘
Saunders said he was unable to comment on whether the officer will keep his job, as internal investigations continue after the appeals process. Theriault is suspended.
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