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 Const. Michael Theriault, who was not in service 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 hitting him so hard with a pipe that burst his left eye.
The Theriaults had pleaded not guilty of aggravating attacks and obstruction of justice in connection with the incident of December 28, 2016 and its aftermath. The judge found Michael Theriault, the officer, guilty and acquitted his brother.
Joseph Di Luca, a judge in Ontario, delivered his verdict on Friday. The sentence has not yet been announced.
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 regarding race and police that need further investigation,” said Di Luca.
But the judge said his job was not to open a public inquiry into race and police, or to make the publicly requested verdict – it was 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.
His lawyers claimed out of court that race played a role in the attack.
The case also sparked protests from members of Black Lives Matter and other anti-racism activists.
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