Black man thought he’d go blind after beating, police officer’s trial hears

Black man thought he’d go blind after beating, police officer’s trial hears

OSHAWA, Ont. — A young black man told an Ontario court Wednesday he was beaten so badly by a Toronto police officer and his brother that he could barely feel anything anymore and didn’t realize how seriously he’d been hurt until he saw blood pouring from his face onto the ground.

Dafonte Miller laid out his account of the Dec. 28, 2016 encounter in a packed Oshawa, Ont., courtroom, saying Michael and Christian Theriault chased him between two homes in Whitby, Ont., in the early hours of the morning.

A man with long hair, believed to be Christian Theriault, placed him in a headlock while a man with short hair, believed to be Michael Theriault, struck Miller’s back and body, the 22-year-old testified. Miller said he squirmed out of the headlock after feeling something hard hit his head.

It was then that he first saw the pipe, Miller told the court. The short-haired man was wielding the pipe, hitting Miller’s face and head as the young man tried to shield himself with his arms, he said. The long-haired man, he said, didn’t use the pipe but “pretty much helped his brother.”

At one point, Miller was on the ground, but then got up and moved towards the door of a nearby house, feeling his way along the side of the building, he said.

“I didn’t really get a chance to fight back, I was more trying to defend my face,” Miller told the court. “I seen the pipe, you know? I was trying to use the rest of my strength to get out.”

Miller said he felt more hits from the pipe as he knocked on the door to ask for help and when he turned around, he was struck twice on the left side of his face. “I said, ‘You’re going to kill me,’ and my eye got hit,” he said.

“I just wasn’t feeling that much anymore…I didn’t know where the blood was coming from at first,” he said. “It was the blood that made me realize I was bleeding profusely.”

Michael Theriault, who was off duty at the time, and Christian Theriault are jointly charged with aggravated assault, and separately charged with obstruction of justice over how they portrayed it to investigators. They have pleaded not guilty.

Court has heard the brothers told investigators Miller was the one who attacked them with a pipe after they caught him breaking into their parents’ truck. The pair told police they feared for their lives.

Miller, however, said he and two friends were wandering the streets waiting to go meet up with some girls when they were intercepted by the brothers.

The long-haired man asked if they were from the neighbourhood, and Miller’s friend Antonio Jack said no, pointing to the area where they lived, he testified. The short-haired one then asked what they were doing there, Miller said.

The conversation had so far been casual and “I didn’t think anything was weird until we got asked what we were doing here,” he told the court.

Miller said he asked why they were being questioned and the short-haired man replied that “he’s a cop, he can ask what he wants.”

The group laughed and started walking away but when Miller looked back, he realized they were being chased, Miller said. The group dispersed and Miller tried to run to the front door of a home, but the brothers were catching up so he veered between the house and the neighbouring one, he said.

That’s where the violence began, Miller said, noting he only ever saw the short-haired man with the pipe. Prosecutors asked Miller if he had even held the pipe himself or had brought it with him, and he said no.

When Miller realized no one was coming to the door, he tried to go to another house but instead only made it to the driveway, he said. He collapsed onto the ground and, sitting up against a car, tried to call 911, he said.

The short-haired man took Miller’s phone from him and spoke to the dispatcher, he said.

Some in the courtroom cried as the 911 call was played aloud Wednesday. Miller can be heard in the background shouting “You’ve got the wrong guy” as Michael Theriault speaks to the dispatcher.

Soon, officers arrived at the scene, closely followed by an ambulance, Miller said. “I didn’t even think that I was going to make it to the hospital,” he said.

Miller told the court his left eye “pretty much burst” during the incident and he has since undergone two surgeries help repair the area. He said he now wears a prosthetic eye on that side.

In the weeks after he was discharged from the hospital, Miller said he had to sleep in the same bed as his mother so she could keep his head in the right position and prevent his eye from “bleeding out.”

The young man said his right eye was also badly hurt in the incident, the “structural bones” of his face were broken, his wrist was fractured, and he had bruises in many places.

For months, Miller stayed home, rarely venturing out and never by himself, he said.

“I was just shaken up a lot,” he said, adding he knew he looked different and didn’t want to be around people.

Though most of the pain has faded by now, Miller said he has less sensation in his right hand and needs to use special eye drops.

This report by The Canadian Press was originally published on Nov. 6, 2019.

Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press

Brothers beat man

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Asymptomatic testing will now be available for "priority groups" who are most likely to spread the COVID-19 virus to vulnerable or at-risk populations. File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS
Marcus Golczyk, with Taco Monster, hands food to a customer during Food Truck Drive and Dash in the Westerner Park parking lot in Red Deer Friday afternoon. The drive-thru event will run every Thursday from 4-7 p.m. and Friday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. through June. Photo by SEAN MCINTOSH/Advocate staff
Food Truck Fridays, Food Truck Drive and Dash return in Red Deer

Red Deerians are able to take in a drive-thru food truck experience… Continue reading

Don and Gloria Moore, of Red Deer, are set to celebrate their 70th anniversary later this month. (Contributed photo)
Red Deer couple to celebrate 70th anniversary

Red Deer couple Don and Gloria Moore are set to celebrate their… Continue reading

Chris Scott, owner of The Whistle Stop Cafe, was put in handcuffs after an anti-restriction protest Saturday in the parking lot of the business. (Screenshot via The Whistle Stop Facebook page)
UPDATE: Central Alberta cafe owner arrested after anti-restriction protest

The owner of a central Alberta cafe, which was the site of… Continue reading

Alberta has 1,910 active cases of COVID-19 as of Wednesday. Red Deer is reporting five active cases, with 108 recovered. (File photo)
Red Deer now has 911 active COVID-19 cases

Central zone has 2,917 active cases

FILE - A firefighter wears a mask as he drives his truck. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward, File
VIDEO: Flames rip through Edmonton-area seniors complex, but no fatalities

ST. ALBERT, Alta. — Fire has destroyed part of a retirement complex… Continue reading

Quebec Premier Francois Legault chairs a premiers virtual news conference as premiers John Horgan, B.C., Jason Kenney, Alberta, and Scott Moe, Saskatchewan, are seen onscreen, Thursday, March 4, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Several provinces bring in new restrictions as high COVID-19 case numbers persist

Several provinces are gearing up to tighten public health measures once again… Continue reading

Members of the RCAF take part in a Royal Canadian Air Force change of command ceremony in Ottawa on Friday, May 4, 2018. The Royal Canadian Air Force is hoping Canada will open its doors to military pilots from other countries as it seeks to address a longstanding shortage of experienced aviators. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Patrick Doyle
RCAF turns to foreign pilots to help with shortage as commercial aviators stay away

OTTAWA — The Royal Canadian Air Force is hoping Canada will open… Continue reading

An arrivals and departures information screen is seen at the Halifax Stanfield International Airport in Halifax on Thursday, Jan. 4, 2018. The chief executive of Atlantic Canada's largest airport is hoping for COVID-19 testing for arriving passengers "sooner rather than later," as an added measure to combat the province's third wave of the virus. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Halifax airport CEO hopes for more on-site COVID testing ‘sooner rather than later’

HALIFAX — The chief executive of Atlantic Canada’s largest airport is hoping… Continue reading

Shoppers wear mask as they shop at a nursery & garden shop on Mother's Day weekend during COVID-19 pandemic in Wilmette, Ill., Saturday, May 8, 2021. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
Tearful reunions mark second Mother’s Day under pandemic

Last Mother’s Day, they celebrated with bacon and eggs over FaceTime. This… Continue reading

Arizona Coyotes head coach Rick Tocchet, standing, watches the game during the second period of an NHL hockey game Wednesday, April 14, 2021, in St. Paul, Minn. The Wild won 5-2. (AP Photo/Craig Lassig)
Tocchet won’t return as coach of Coyotes after 4 seasons

GLENDALE, Ariz. — The Arizona Coyotes and coach Rick Tocchet have mutually… Continue reading

Columbus Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella shouts at an official after a fight between Columbus Blue Jackets' s Gavin Bayreuther and Florida Panthers' Sam Bennett during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Monday, April 19, 2021, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
Tortorella out after 6 years as Columbus Blue Jackets coach

COLUMBUS, Ohio — John Tortorella is out as coach of the Columbus… Continue reading

A caribou grazes on Baffin Island in a 2008 file photo. A last-ditch attempt to save some of Canada's vanishing caribou herds is a step closer after a scientific review panel's approval of a plan to permanently pen some animals and breed them to repopulate other herds. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Kike Calvo via AP Images
Parks Canada captive caribou breeding proposal gets OK from scientific review panel

JASPER, Alta. — A last-ditch attempt to save some of Canada’s vanishing… Continue reading

The smouldering remains of houses in Slave Lake, Alta., are seen in a May 16, 2011, file photo. The wildfire that is devastating large swaths of the northern Alberta city of Fort McMurray comes just five years after another blaze destroyed 400 buildings and left 2,000 people homeless in Slave Lake, Alberta. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ian Jackson
Ten years later: Five things to know about the Slave Lake wildfire

A wildfire burned about one-third of Slave Lake in northern Alberta in… Continue reading

Most Read