Calgary officer handed 1-month sentence for assaulting handcuffed Black woman who died of overdose this week

·3 min read
Dalia Kafi was assaulted by Calgary police Const. Alex Dunn, who will be sentenced Tuesday afternoon. (Dalia Kafi, court exhibit - image credit)
Dalia Kafi was assaulted by Calgary police Const. Alex Dunn, who will be sentenced Tuesday afternoon. (Dalia Kafi, court exhibit - image credit)

On the day that Calgary police Const. Alex Dunn was sentenced to one month for assaulting Dalia Kafi — a young Black woman who was handcuffed at the time — CBC News has learned she has died.

Kafi was living in Red Deer when she died of an overdose Sunday, according to her friends, who say they are still processing the news.

In an interview with CBC News last December, Kafi said she was still dealing with the trauma of the assault.

Kafi had been working at a meat plant in Red Deer and said in December she was focused on work and her young son.

Sharon Kambale founded the Afro-Mentorship Initiative and was friends with Kafi, a woman she described as "a loving mother" who "always placed her son first."

  • Read Kambale's full statement below.

'An egregious mistake'

Dunn, 34, who was convicted of assault causing bodily harm for the violent takedown in 2017, was handed a one-month sentence — half to be served under house arrest, half under a curfew — by provincial court Judge Michelle Christopher.

"I do not find it necessary to separate the offender from society," said Christopher. "This was an egregious mistake."

"His actions, while harmful, were not premeditated."

Kafi was Black, and while there was no evidence presented at trial that the assault was motivated by racism, both the Crown and judge have noted that given the current climate, an officer's attack on a Black woman is harmful to the community.

At a sentencing hearing in February, defence lawyer Cory Wilson proposed no jail time for his client asking for a combination of house arrest, curfew and probation while prosecutor Ryan Pollard argued for a nine-month jail term.

In December 2017, Dunn arrested Kafi, who was 26 years old at the time, for breaching her court-imposed curfew.

Dunn took Kafi to the arrest processing unit (APU) where he tried to remove a scarf from her head to take a photo.

After a brief struggle, Dunn threw Kafi, who was handcuffed, to the ground.

Kafi's head can be seen bouncing off the ground with a pool of blood quickly forming.

She appeared to be briefly unconscious.

Kafi, said Pollard, suffered a broken nose, which required surgery, and a split lip, which needed stitches.

The trial took place last October, and after the video was released as an exhibit, it went viral — viewed more than 13 million times around the world.

Colin Hall/CBC, supplied
Colin Hall/CBC, supplied

Dunn is also under an internal investigation by the Calgary Police Service (CPS) after CBC News received a photo of the constable in blackface at a 2012 Halloween party.

With the criminal court process complete, an internal CPS investigation will take place.

If convicted of Police Act offences, Dunn could face discipline ranging from a reprimand to dismissal.

In 2016, Dunn pleaded guilty to two charges of insubordination for breaching CPS policies related to accessing a civilian's information for personal reasons and the home storage of his service firearm. He was docked four days' pay.

Until his conviction, Dunn was assigned to administrative duties with CPS but is currently suspended without pay.

Sharon Kambale's full statement:

"We know how intergenerational trauma is so real. How the society that we live in is not created for us but rather built for our falling. We know this because we live our lives each and every day. No matter what we do or where we are, racial injustice continues to be perpetuated.

We find ourselves beginning to carry the weight of this world on our own shoulders recognizing that the police are not here to protect us. They claim Canada to be a land of the free, yet we're bound by the chains of systemic racism. The violation of our rights and freedom, of our humanity. Together we recognize that if we're going to experience a solution it'll be found within our own community.

Again we've lost another; Dalia Kafi. A loving mother, she always placed her son first. She was a dedicated employee, an amazing friend that so many had come to know as a sister.

She took her own life thinking that it would be the solution to her pain caused by those she thought she could trust.

As a mother myself, and a friend to Dalia, my heart goes out to her son. A boy who will have to navigate this world without his mom to be his refuge. To hug and hold him when he's scared, to read stories and tuck him into bed. He carries the weight of this world on his shoulders before he begins to read because of the injustice of a society that has been built against us.

We cry out for peace and justice because we know we deserve so much more."

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.

CBC
CBC
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