A now-suspended Metro Toronto police officer, Michael Theriault, 27, admitted in Superior Court in Oshawa Tuesday to repeatedly punching Whitby’s Dafonte Miller, then 19, with such force Miller’s left eye ruptured. Theriault claimed he was defending himself and his brother.
Theriault and his brother Christian are accused of beating Miller with a metal pipe on December 28, 2016 on Erickson Drive in Whitby. The brothers have been charged with aggravated assault and obstruction of justice. The Theriaults claim they were trying to detain Miller after he allegedly broke into their parents’ truck at their childhood home.
The incident began, according to Theriault’s testimony, with the brothers smoking in their parents’ garage. He claims they heard door of their parents’ truck closing through the closed garage door. Theriault claims he ordered his brother to open the garage, while he rolled under it.
Theriault claims he found Miller at the truck. He says Miller then fled and both brothers gave chase shoeless. The Crown prosecutor, Peter Scrutton, later confirmed with Theriault that he would have run about 130-150 metres after Miller to a side-yard between two houses.
Miller refutes this was their first interaction. In his testimony last week, Miller claimed he and his friends were harassed by the Theriault brothers through an open garage door.
During the chase, Theriault admits he did not identify himself as a police officer nor announce his intention to arrest Miller, saying, “my first and only thought was to apprehend the suspect.” Scrutton was quick to call out how this goes against Theriault’s police training, insinuating Theriault was being reckless.
Between the houses, according to testimony, a fight broke out between Theriault and Miller. Theriault insists Miller ducked between the houses while being chased. He claims he saw Miller attempting to jump the fence. He admits to body-checking Miller into said fence, at which time he says Miller produced the pipe in question, which until then Theriault had not seen.
Earlier in the proceedings, Theriault’s insistence Miller had the pipe brought an incredulous laugh from Miller’s supporters in the courtroom. Justice Joseph Di Luca quickly scolded the packed courtroom.
Scrutton was quick to suggest otherwise.
Scrutton asked, “Why did you not simply grab [Miller], and hold him against the wall?”
Theriault replied, “It all happened so fast. I don’t know why I did.”
Scrutton asked Theriault if the reason he body-checked Miller instead was because his hands were full holding the pipe. Theriault adamantly denied the allegation.
Last week, Miller told the court the Theriault brothers dragged him between the houses to beat him, bringing the pipe with them.
Theriault describes the confrontation escalating into a fist-fight with Miller. He claims Miller began hitting him with the pipe on his body. However, Scrutton pointed out Theriault suffered no serious or visible injuries. Theriault agreed, saying he only suffered, “general soreness.”
Theriault admits to “punching anywhere I could, as hard as I could,” from behind Miller, but did not or could not say where the punches landed.
Michael Theriault says during the fight, Christian Theriault had Miller in a headlock, but fell on his back. Michael says he struck at Miller from behind.
The defence later admitted two objects similar to the pipe into evidence. They were found in the space between the houses where the altercation took place.
The trial is tentatively set to conclude on January 29, 2020.