Stepping down from the witness stand after his third day of testimony, the Whitby man who alleges he was severely beaten by an off-duty Toronto police officer and his brother said he’s relieved the questioning is over.
“I feel like I can breathe a little bit better,” said Dafonte Miller, leaving an Oshawa courthouse Friday afternoon alongside family members. “I don’t have to come back, I just feel a little bit better.”
Asked what it was like to be in the same room as Const. Michael Theriault and his brother Christian, the 22-year-old said, “he didn’t let it bother me as much as people might think.”
“I didn’t look at them.”
The Theriault brothers are jointly charged with aggravated assault and separately charged with attempt to obstruct justice in a Dec. 28, 2016, confrontation that seriously injured Miller, then 19, and resulted in the loss of his left eye.
The Theriault brothers have pleaded not guilty before Superior Court Justice Joseph Di Luca.
Miller has been cross-examined by Michael Lacy, a lawyer for Michael Theriault, since Wednesday afternoon.
Lacy at times suggested Miller was changing or altering his story based on hearing what others had testified. The lawyer’s questions highlighted differences in evidence Miller had given at trial versus what he said during the February 2018 preliminary inquiry and in past interviews with investigators.
“With all due respect,” Miller said at one point on Thursday, “I’m not trying to be a storyteller up here.”
Court has heard conflicting accounts of what happened immediately before a violent encounter between Miller and the Theriault brothers on Whitby’s Erickson Drive.
In harrowing testimony Wednesday, Miller told the court he was punched, kicked and struck by a metal pipe after the brothers approached him and two friends on the street and asked them what they were doing there. After that initial exchange intensified, Miller said he and his friends began walking away, but the brothers then chased him and assaulted him in between two nearby houses.
In defence statements, both Theriault brothers said they chased and apprehended Miller after they caught him and another man breaking into their parents’ truck parked outside the family home on Erickson Drive. They claim it was Miller who wielded the pipe, and that they fought back in self-defence.
One of the men Miller was with on the night of the incident, Bradley Goode, told court earlier this week the trio had indeed been “car hopping” — moving from car to car to find valuables in unlocked vehicles. Miller’s other friend has denied they were breaking into cars.
In opening statements at the outset of the trial, Crown lawyer Peter Scrutton acknowledged the possibility of competing narratives about what happened immediately before the violent confrontation, but said the charges against the Theriaults “apply on either version of the events precipitating the assault.”
During questioning Friday, Lacy suggested to Miller that the reason he’d been running away from the Theriaults was because he’d just been caught breaking into vehicles.
“If I suggested to you that you were struggling to get away because you didn’t want to be apprehended for breaking into cars, you would disagree with that?” Lacy asked.
“Yes I would disagree with that,” said Miller.
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“And any suggestion I make to you that you were using that weapon, hitting both of the other two guys with it, you would disagree with that, right?” Lacy continued.
“I would definitely disagree with that,” Miller said.
Lacy also questioned Miller about an incident Lacy said had involved the Durham Regional Police, after a convenience store owner complained in May 2018 that Miller made a threatening gesture towards him — specifically, that Miller had formed his hand into a gun and pointed it into his store.
Miller denied that he’d ever made such a gesture.
“I definitely did never use my finger at any point to threaten somebody,” Miller said.
Over the Crown’s objections but allowed by the judge, Lacy then introduced video surveillance from the store that appeared to show Miller make a gun gesture towards the store.
When asked after the video was played, Miller agreed with Lacy that he appeared to be making a gun-like gesture with his hand. But he said he recalled that at the time, he’d been talking to his friend about a specific shooting in the area, and hadn’t been aiming at anyone when he made the gesture.
In brief questioning Friday, Alan Gold, lawyer for Christian Theriault, asked Miller to confirm that his evidence was he was not able to throw any punches during the confrontation.
“I had tried to defend myself, but I wasn’t able to connect any punches, or harm them in any way,” Miller said.
Throughout eight days of testimony at the Oshawa courthouse, the trial has also heard from five Durham Regional police officers who responded to 911 reports of a fight and possible car thefts and from residents of Erickson Drive, including a Toronto Fire chief who alleges he heard and saw two men violently beating on a third outside his home.
The trial resumes Tuesday.