A beating, a Toronto officer and many questions around police oversight

In the early morning hours of Dec. 28, 2016, a young man in Whitby, Ont. — a suburban town an hour east of Toronto — suffered an injured eye and broken nose, jaw and wrist.

It happened at the hands of a Toronto police officer and his brother, according to the victim's lawyer, Julian Falconer.

While 20-year-old Dafonte Miller awaits surgery to remove the eye injured in the incident, Toronto police Const. Michael Theriault and his brother Christian Theriault, a civilian, are facing multiple charges for allegedly chasing down and repeatedly beating Miller with a steel pipe, Falconer says. On Friday, the Theriaults' lawyers attended the pair's first court appearance on their behalf to argue the conditions of their bail.

The case has taken twists and turns to reach this point. When the incident happened last year, Miller initially faced charges amid an investigation from Durham Regional Police, the force attending the scene that night.

But in May, those charges were withdrawn, just days after Falconer reported the incident to the Special Investigations Unit, the provincial civilian oversight agency that investigates circumstances involving police that have resulted in a death, serious injury, or allegations of sexual assault.

Why the delay?

What happened that night in December prompted the SIU to lay aggravated assault, assault with a weapon and public mischief charges against both Theriaults, saying they "acted together."

But those charges came seven months after the incident, and were the result of a lawyer flagging the case for the SIU, not either of the police forces involved.

As public calls for more information grew louder, Toronto police chief Mark Saunders announced on Thursday that the Waterloo Regional Police will be responsible for an internal investigation into the circumstances surrounding the alleged assault. "As soon as legally possible, that report will then be made public," he said in a statement.

Now, as the case now works its way through the legal system amid ongoing public outcry — and under the spotlight of the internal investigation — there are, as Mayor John Tory recently put it, many "unanswered questions."

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