The lawyer for a Canadian police officer convicted of assault for the violent 2017 arrest of a handcuffed Black woman has asked that his client serve time on house arrest rather than in jail. The attorney claims the constable is guilty of “becoming frustrated” with the woman, who was knocked unconscious as her head hit the floor when the officer threw her down in a processing unit in 2017.
Calgary police officer Const. Alex Dunn, 34, was convicted of assault causing bodily harm for his violent arrest and takedown of Dalia Kafi, who was 26 when the incident occurred on Dec. 12, 2017.
Surveillance footage of the arrest released by a judge in October shows Dunn and Kafi in a processing unit where Kafi was about to have her picture taken while standing against a wall. Dunn attempted to remove her headscarf multiple times before slamming Kafi to the ground in what Staff Sgt. Gordon Macdonald described as a “judo-style throw,” during testimony he gave during last year’s trial.
During a sentencing hearing on Thursday, Feb. 4, Dunn’s attorney, Cory Wilson, said his client is guilty of “becoming frustrated with Ms. Kafi, taking her to the ground in a judo-style throw.”
“This approximately two-second incident has forever changed the lives of Ms. Kafi and Mr. Dunn,” Wilson told provincial court Judge Michelle Christopher, adding, “One mistake does not define a man.”
Prosecutors argued Thursday that Dunn should serve nine months in jail, while Wilson proposed that his client’s sentence be made up of a combination of house arrest, curfew and probation. He said that if the judge thinks jail time is warranted it should be served for 30 to 45 days served on weekends.
The judge is expected to deliver her decision next week. Dunn remains suspended without pay from the Calgary Police Service.
On the night of the incident, Kafi was arrested at a traffic stop for violating her curfew. The driver was initially pulled over for turning on a yellow light. Kafi was heading home from a friend’s house after realizing she was out past curfew.
Sgt. Macdonald testified last year that he heard the sound of Kafi’s skull making contact with the floor as she was slammed to the ground.
“There’s only one type of sound when somebody’s bone hits the floor and that’s what I heard,” he said.
When other officers came to Kafi’s aid and move her motionless body, a pool of blood remained where she had been lying.
Kafi underwent surgery for a broken nose and required stitches.
Prosecutor Ryan Pollard acknowledged that there is no evidence indicating the use of force was racially motivated but added that it would be an “error for the court to not consider the fact the victim here is Black and the perpetrator is white.”
Dunn claims he thought Kafi had slipped out of her handcuffs and grabbed his hand. After throwing her down and realizing she was actually still in handcuffs, he told her, “Don’t grab the police.”
Of the video of the incident, which has been viewed more than 13 million times, Wilson said, “This is something that’s going to be on the internet forever.”
“This is an individual who’s had his life destroyed by one very unfortunate incident,” he said about Dunn. He “has forever lost his reputation in the community,” the attorney added.
Outside of the sentencing hearing, Kafi spoke with reporters about her ordeal, and revealed that she has wanted to talk about the incident but is unable to afford therapy.
“I felt like I was useless, like I was nothing, because of the way he threw me to the ground,” said Kafi. “I didn’t feel like a human being, you would never do that to a dog or a cat so why would you do that to a human being?”