A Toronto police officer faces multiple charges in the brutal beating of a 19-year-old man that left him with several broken bones and a serious eye injury.
Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit charged Constable Michael Theriault on Tuesday, July 18, with aggravated assault, assault with a weapon and public mischief, CBC News Toronto reported. The charges stem from an incident last December when the off-duty cop violently attacked Dafonte Miller with a metal pipe in Whitby, Ontario.
A spokesperson with the Toronto police confirmed that Theriault was suspended with pay. He’s due to appear before the Ontario Court of Justice in Oshawa on Aug. 10.
Miller was allegedly beaten with a steel pipe just after 3 a.m. on Dec. 28, 2016, as he and two friends walked to another friend’s house, Julian Falconer, the teen’s lawyer, said at a news conference Tuesday. Falconer said a car break-in is reportedly what led Theriault to approach the men. Miller and his friends started to run when they heard yelling and saw the officer and another man chasing them with a pipe.
The friends managed to get away, but Miller wasn’t so lucky.
Seven months later, Miller’s mother, Leisa Lewis, says her son is still traumatized and is now awaiting surgery to have his left eye removed.
Miller also suffered a broken wrist, jaw and nose.
“To me, it’s like attempted murder,” Lewis told CBC News Toronto. “Two, three more blows [and] my son could have been dead.
“I can’t get that thought out of my head.”
A press release by the SIU stated that Durham Regional Police arrested Miller at the scene, after which he was transported to a local hospital with “serious injuries.” Falconer said his client was later charged with theft under $5,000, two counts of assault with a weapon, possession of a weapon and possession related to marijuana, all of which were withdrawn following a pretrial hearing on May 5.
“In the time I have been a lawyer — 28 years — it is easily one of the most inexplicable, senseless, gratuitous attacks by a police officer on a member of the public I’ve ever seen,” Falconer said at a press conference.
Miller’s lawyer went on to allege a police cover-up following the incident. He said the attack occurred just outside a home with two witnesses inside who were never called in for an interview with Durham Regional Police.
“You have two services,” Falconer said. “Each had an opportunity to do the right thing. Both ducked and, as far as I’m concerned and in my opinion, actively covered up the crime. The attack is so extraordinary and so extreme that I think it is unfair to tar all officers with this bizarre violent behavior. But the nature of the cover-up — that, I believe, goes well beyond these officers.”
The lawyer also said he believes race played a factor in Miller’s beating.
“The major facts are as follows: my client is Black. And he’s a Black young male.”