Investigating cop testifies she heard Dafonte Miller scream about being beaten

Investigating cop testifies she heard Dafonte Miller scream about being beaten

OSHAWA, Ont. — The trial of two Toronto-area brothers accused of brutally beating a black teen nearly three years ago took a surprise turn Tuesday when an officer who responded to the incident recalled details she had never previously shared with prosecutors or investigators.

Durham Regional Police Const. Barbara Zabdyr told the Oshawa, Ont., court she heard Dafonte Miller screaming after she arrived at the scene of the incident in the early hours of Dec. 28, 2016.

The young man was on the ground at the time, held in place by another man, she said. “He was screaming that he was beaten up by the males and that they were (previously) hitting him with something,” she testified.

Her new recollection was quickly challenged by lawyers representing Michael Theriault, a Toronto police officer, and his brother Christian Theriault, who are jointly charged with aggravated assault in the incident. They are also separately charged with obstruction of justice over how they portrayed it to investigators. They have pleaded not guilty.

Prosecutors allege Michael Theriault, who was off duty at the time of the incident, and his brother chased Miller, then 19, and beat him, at times using a metal pipe.

Court has heard the Theriault brothers told investigators they caught the teen breaking into their parents’ truck, and feared for their lives during the encounter.

Zabdyr testified that when she arrived at the scene in Whitby, Ont., she saw Miller face down on the driveway. He was being restrained by a white, bearded man, while another white, long-haired man stood nearby, she said.

The constable had already been told that Miller was reportedly seen breaking into a vehicle and that one of the men who confronted him was an off-duty Toronto officer, she said. But as she approached, she heard the teen scream a conflicting account, she said.

Defence lawyers suggested the officer’s memory was tainted by the fact that she read news stories about the trial, despite a court order meant to prevent witnesses from hearing each other’s evidence.

“You didn’t have any such memory, did you? Until you read the newspapers,” asked Alan Gold, who represents Christian Theriault.

Zabdyr insisted the memory emerged last year in the days after she testified in a preliminary inquiry in the case.

“I’ve been going over this over and over and over again,” she said during cross-examination. “At the time of the preliminary, I didn’t remember that part. Going over this, this is what I remember. Certain things just come to your memory.”

The officer said she did not alert the Crown or investigators that she had new information because she believed they would tell her to save it for her testimony. She said those were the instructions she received when she remembered more details before the preliminary inquiry.

Court rules dictate that prosecutors must share their evidence with the defence in order to ensure a fair trial.

Zabdyr also told the court that Michael Theriault was the one who handcuffed Miller and patted the teen down to search for hidden weapons.

When she told Miller he was under arrest for breaking into cars, “he told me that we have the wrong guy,” the officer testified. She recalled replying that “we always do,” a quip she told the court referenced the fact that all accused claim to have been wrongfully arrested.

She overheard him tell paramedics in the ambulance “that he was just walking and he got jumped and beat up,” she said. Miller was taken to hospital to be treated for his injuries.

He was charged with several offences, including assault, but the charges were later dropped.

Court also heard Tuesday from a police officer who spoke to the brothers and their father, John Theriault, that night.

One of the two friends who were with Miller when he first encountered Michael and Christian Theriault was also cross-examined earlier Tuesday. Defence lawyers suggested Antonio Jack was lying when he testified the group had spent the night walking around and trying to buy marijuana.

Michael Lacy, who represents Michael Theriault, argued Jack couldn’t account for four hours of that night and suggested that time was spent stealing from cars.

The trial, which is taking place before a judge alone, began last week. Miller is expected to testify on Wednesday.

This report by The Canadian Press was originally published on Nov. 5, 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

Artists of all genres are encouraged to apply for a variety of awards and scholarships available through the Red Deer Arts Council. This mixed-media work, Shadow Man by Paul Boultbee, has shown at the Kiwanis Gallery, operated by the council. (Contributed image).
Red Deer-area artists can apply for various awards, scholarships by March 1

The Red Deer Arts Council seeks to encourage artistic development

People lineup at a hotel for the homeless before the 8 p.m. COVID-19 curfew on Jan. 11, 2021, in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Legault nixes call for COVID-19 curfew exemption, saying it could used to avoid fines

Legault nixes call for COVID-19 curfew exemption, saying it could used to avoid fines

The body of 25-year-old Kyler Corriveau was discovered near Red Deer on Sunday. He was missing since Dec. 15. Police are investigating his death as a homicide. (Contrinuted photo).
RCMP are investigating the death of missing Red Deer man as a homicide

The body of Kyler Corriveau was discovered on Sunday

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw reported 456 new cases of COVID-19 over Tuesday afternoon. (photography by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Five new COVID-19 deaths in Central zone, two in Red Deer

Province reports 456 new cases of COVID-19

Community Futures Central Alberta, in partnership with the Central Alberta Regional Innovation Network (CARIN), is behind the SMARTstart initiative for budding entrepreneurs.
New program aimed at helping entrepreneurs succeed

Program offers mentorship, business advice and networking opportunities

Justin Kripps of Summerland and his team have competed in Olympic action and World Cup competitions in bobsleigh. (Jason Ransom-Canadian Olympic Comittee).
QUIZ: Are you ready for some winter sports?

It’s cold outside, but there are plenty of recreation opportunities in the winter months

Winnipeg Jets left wing Nikolaj Ehlers (27) scores the game-winning goal past Ottawa Senators goaltender Matt Murray (30) during overtime in Ottawa on Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Ehlers scores overtime winner as Winnipeg Jets rally for 4-3 win over Ottawa Senators

Ehlers scores overtime winner as Winnipeg Jets rally for 4-3 win over Ottawa Senators

Canadian women's soccer team member Rhian Wilkinson is seen during a training session in Vancouver, B.C. Wednesday, April 21, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Former Canada Soccer coach Rhian Wilkinson joins England women’s coaching staff

Former Canada Soccer coach Rhian Wilkinson joins England women’s coaching staff

Canadian Premier League commissioner David Clanachan is shown in a handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Canadian Premier League-Darren Goldstein **MANDATORY CREDIT**
CPL targets season kickoff on Victoria Day Weekend, providing authorities agree

CPL targets season kickoff on Victoria Day Weekend, providing authorities agree

United States forward Brianna Decker (14) and Canada forward Marie-Philip Poulin battle for the puck during first period of 2018 Four Nations Cup gold medal game in Saskatoon on November 10, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Liam Richards
Together at last, Canadian women’s hockey team reunites after pandemic separation

Together at last, Canadian women’s hockey team reunites after pandemic separation

Soldiers parade from Parliament Hill as they take part in the National Day of Honour in Ottawa on Friday, May 9, 2014. Canada’s veterans ombudsman is calling on the federal government reverse to restrictions on the provision of mental-health services for the families of retired military personnel. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Ombudsman slams new restrictions on mental-health support for veterans’ families

Ombudsman slams new restrictions on mental-health support for veterans’ families

FILE - John Mulaney arrives at night one of the Creative Arts Emmy Awards on Sept. 14, 2019, in Los Angeles. A file obtained by The Associated Press shows the U.S. Secret Service investigated John Mulaney, but found no wrongdoing in a joke the comedian made on “Saturday Night Live” in February 2020. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP, File)
File details investigation into John Mulaney ‘SNL’ monologue

File details investigation into John Mulaney ‘SNL’ monologue

FILE - In this Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2017, file photo, Tom Hanks arrives at the People's Choice Awards at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. Hanks will host a 90-minute primetime TV special celebrating the inauguration of Joe Biden as president of the United States. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP, File)
From Gaga to Garth, Miranda to Moreno: Celebs join inaugural

Like so much this past year, the inaugural celebration will be like… Continue reading

A Honduran migrant poses for a photo at a road block manned by Guatemalan soldiers and police, on the highway in Vado Hondo, Guatemala, Monday, Jan. 18, 2021. Some migrants threw rocks while authorities launched tear gas and pushed the migrants with their riot shields back down the highway. (AP Photo/Sandra Sebastian)
Large migrant caravan dissolves in Guatemala

Large migrant caravan dissolves in Guatemala

Most Read