Officer on trial for assault testifies he didn't mean to throw handcuffed woman face-first

The Calgary police officer on trial for assault testified he believed his arrestee had slipped out of her handcuffs and that he didn't mean to throw the woman on the floor face-first. 

WARNING: This story contains disturbing video

Const. Alex Dunn, who is on trial for assault causing bodily harm, testified he believed his arrestee, Dalia Kafi, had slid out of her handcuffs when he threw her to the floor face-first. (Court exhibit)

The Calgary police officer on trial for assault testified he believed his arrestee had slipped out of her handcuffs and that he didn't mean to throw the woman on the floor face-first. 

Const. Alex Dunn, 34, testified in his own defence on Day 2 of his assault causing bodily harm trial. 

In December 2017, Dunn arrested Dalia Kafi for breaching her court-imposed curfew and obstruction of justice after she gave him a fake name when the car she'd been travelling in was pulled over by police.

At the arrest processing unit (APU), video shows Kafi ducking away from Dunn as he tries to remove a scarf from her head to take a photo. 

After a brief struggle, Kafi, who is Black and was 26 years old at the time, was thrown to the ground with her hands still cuffed behind her back.

Kafi's head can be seen bouncing off the ground and she appeared to be briefly unconscious. She suffered a broken nose, which required surgery and split lip, which needed stitches. 

Calgary police officer on trial for assaulting handcuffed woman he threw to the ground

2 years ago
Duration 1:03
In this court evidence from Dec.13, 2017, Dalia Kafi was arrested by Const. Dunn for breaching her curfew. At the arrest processing unit, Kafi says she backed away from Dunn when he attempted to remove her headscarf. Dunn can then be seen throwing the handcuffed woman to the ground face first.

Dunn testified Tuesday that during the struggle to remove the scarf, he believed one of Kafi's hands had slipped out of the cuffs and grabbed his hand, which was on her shoulder. 

"Her hand had come up and wrapped around my hand," he said. "I immediately said to her, and excuse my language, your honour, 'what the f--k, you're supposed to be in handcuffs."

In fact, the handcuff on Kafi's right hand had slid up toward her elbow so even though her arms were attached to each other behind her back, Dunn testified she was somehow able to reach up to her left shoulder and grab the officer's hand.

Dunn said he felt the need to do a "dynamic takedown" on Kafi in order to regain control. He said he feared she had slipped out of the cuffs and could use them as a "swinging hook weapon."

Throughout the encounter with Kafi, Dunn testified, she had been verbally abusive, swearing at him and making other inappropriate comments, including one about his girlfriend. 

Under questioning from defence lawyer Cory Wilson, Dunn said Kafi's comments didn't bother him or make him angry. That he'd encountered similar behaviour in hundreds of other arrests.

"Did it make you angry or upset?" asked Wilson.

"No," replied Dunn.

The officer said he didn't feel there were other safe options that would prevent Kafi from potentially attacking him. 

Once Kafi was on the ground, Dunn said, he realized she was still in handcuffs.

Asked by Wilson if he meant to take Kafi down face-first or cause her harm, Dunn replied "no."

On Monday, a senior officer testified the take-down of Kafi was the worst use of force he had witnessed in his 30-year career. Staff Sgt. Gordon Macdonald also testified there was no justification for the "judo-style throw."

'Don't grab the police'

Once she was on the ground, Dunn said there was no need for further use of force on Kafi because she was under control. 

"I had succeeded in what I had intended to do ," said Dunn. "I advised her, 'don't grab the police.'"

Other officers stepped in and Dunn said he backed away so he wouldn't agitate her further. 

An out-of-town judge and prosecutor have been brought in to handle the case due to the potential of conflict-of-interest regarding a Calgary officer who is part of this city's justice system. 

Medicine Hat provincial court Judge Michelle Christopher is presiding over the three-day trial. 

Prosecutor Ryan Pollard will get the chance to cross-examine Dunn on Tuesday afternoon.

Dunn is working in an administrative position with the Calgary Police Service. 


Meghan Grant

CBC Calgary crime reporter

Meghan Grant is a justice affairs reporter. She has been covering courts, crime and stories of police accountability in southern Alberta for more than a decade. Send Meghan a story tip at or follow her on Twitter.