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Trial begins for Toronto police officer, brother accused in Dafonte Miller beating

Last Updated Oct 29, 2019 at 4:37 pm EDT

Toronto Police Const. Michael Theriault and his brother Christian Theriault walk into an Oshawa courthouse in February 2018. CITYNEWS.

The trial of a Toronto police officer and his brother, accused of brutally beating a Whitby teen nearly three years ago, then trying to cover it up, began with the testimony of a Durham police officer who was called to investigate the incident.

Const. Michael Theriault and Christian Theriault are jointly charged with aggravated assault, and separately charged for attempting to obstruct justice, in connection with the incident in 2016.

Crown prosecutors allege the brothers saw Dafonte Miller, who was 19 at the time of the attack, walking in an area with his friends, chased him, assaulted him and continued to assault him after he briefly got away.

Durham Regional Police Const. Jennifer Bowler said she first saw Dafonte Miller face down on the ground with a white man restraining him, but was able to see him more clearly after the teen was pulled up.

“There was a quantity of blood coming from his left eye. It appeared to me to be a significant injury,” she told an Oshawa court.

“It made me a little queasy,” she said.

During her testimony, Bowler said she was dispatched to the outside of a home after three calls were made to 911 _ one by Miller, one by a resident, and one by a man reporting that he had caught someone breaking into cars.

She was tasked with photographing the area and anything that seemed relevant, including any injuries, the officer said.

Bowler said she took photos of Miller and of Christian Theriault’s hand, which had a cut, but that no other injuries were reported or visible. She told the brothers to get in touch if injuries appeared in the next few days but to her knowledge, they did not, she testified.

Under cross-examination, the officer said it was possible the brothers would have been in shock immediately after the incident, and would have seen a doctor rather than police if any injuries emerged later.

Among the other things Bowler saw and photographed at the scene were blood spots and droplets, a pair of black gloves, a metal pole, two cellphones and some change, she told the court.

The constable eventually went to take photographs of a truck at a nearby home after another man, this one in his 50s, said it was “entered as part of the incident,” she testified. Bowler took photos that showed the inside console of the truck was left open.

When she returned to the original scene, she noticed blood on the hood of a car in the driveway, and assumed the “tissue” came from Miller’s eye, she said.

After collecting items at the site, Bowler took them to a police station for processing, and noticed that some of them appeared to have blood on them, including the metal pole, she said.

The pole, roughly a metre long, was shown in court Tuesday.

Dafonte Miller suffered broken bones and such heavy damage to his left eye that it had to be removed.

The court also heard Tuesday the brothers told police they had caught Miller breaking into their car.

When Durham Regional police arrived at the scene, Miller was charged with theft as well as assault with a weapon. Those charges were eventually withdrawn.

Criminal charges against the brothers were not laid until seven months after the incident. Lawyers for Miller have previously said race was a factor in the alleged assault.