Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit has laid additional charges in the brutal beating of a black teenager, this time against the brother of a Toronto police officer who also stands accused in the assault.
Earlier this week, the civilian agency that oversees policing in the province charged Constable Michael Theriault with aggravated assault, assault with a weapon, and public mischief in relation to an incident last year in Whitby, Ont. that left 19-year-old Dafonte Miller blinded in one eye.
In a statement released on Friday, the SIU said it was now jointly charging the constable, who was off duty at the time, and Christian Theriault with aggravated assault, assault with a weapon, and then each separately with public mischief. VICE News reported earlier this week that the officer had been suspended with pay, and is expected in court on August 10.
“The allegation in this case is that Cst Michael Theriault and Christian Theriault acted together and were parties to the same assault upon the 19-year-old man on December 28, 2016,” SIU director Tony Loparco said in a statement. “In view of the exceptional circumstances of this case, I am satisfied that the overall interests of justice are best served by trying both accused together in one trial.”
The SIU has said that on the night of Dec. 28, the Durham Regional Police responded to a call, but ended up charging Miller, who was taken to hospital with serious injuries, with assault, possession of a weapon, as well as theft and marijuana possession. The charges against Miller have since been dropped.
According to Miller’s lawyer, Julian Falconer, an alleged car break-in led the brothers to approach Miller and his friends sometime after 2 a.m. When Miller and his friends heard yelling, he and his friends began to run, but Miller was unable to get away.
Falconer said he was beaten with a steel pipe. He suffered broken bones and his eye was so severely injured that his family says it will have to be removed. Neither Durham police, nor the Toronto police reported the incident to the SIU, which became aware of it in April from Miller’s lawyer.
“In the time I have been a lawyer — 28 years — it is easily one of the most inexplicable, senseless, gratuitous attack by a police officer on a member of the public I have ever seen,” Falconer said at a press conference earlier this week. He noted that when police arrived that night, the constable accused his client of using the steel pipe against him.
Falconer also accused both police forces of covering up the incident. Toronto police has declined to comment on the allegation, and a spokesman for Durham Regional Police said it is up to the police force that employs the officer to notify the SIU of any incident.