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Dafonte Miller says assault by off-duty cop changed his view of police

Defendants Christian Theriault, left, and Michael Theriault, second left, look on as Crown Attorney Linda Shin questions Durham Regional Police Const. Barbara Zabdyr while Justice Joseph Di Luca looks on in this artist rendering from court in Oshawa, Ont. on Tuesday, November 5, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Alexandra Newbould

OSHAWA, Ont. – A young Black man who was assaulted by an off-duty Toronto police officer more than three years ago said the incident permanently changed his life and the way he views police.

Dafonte Miller laid out the lingering impact of the December 28, 2016 encounter in a statement read by prosecutors Friday at a sentencing hearing for Constable Michael Theriault.

In it, Miller said that as a Black man, he had long heard stories about police abusing their power, but had never experienced it like he did that night.

“To this day, I can’t believe that these would be the actions of a police officer. Someone that is sworn to serve and protect was viciously attacking me without any justification for doing so,” he wrote in the statement.

“No one questioned him. Only I was worthy of suspicion because of the colour of my skin, Michael Theriault could have got away with what he did to me.”

Miller described feeling isolated and on edge since the incident, grappling with headaches and failing to find meaningful employment or return to school. He said the incident will forever be a part of his story.

Theriault’s assault conviction was a first step in accountability, Miller said, adding he would like to see the constable serve jail time.

The Crown is seeking a jail sentence of 12 to 15 months and several other restrictions for Theriault.

The sentencing decision is expected November 5.

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