July 29, 2013 4:09 pm

Toronto police chief ‘aware’ of public concerns over streetcar shooting death

Watch: Toronto police face backlash after recent shooting of Sammy Yatim aboard a streetcar. Mark Carcasole reports.

TORONTO – Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair expressed his condolences to the family of an 18-year-old man shot to death on a TTC streetcar during an altercation with Toronto police on the weekend.

“As a father, I can only imagine the terrible grief and the need for answers,” said Blair during a statement to the media Monday morning. “We will do our best to ensure those answers are provided.”

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READ MORE: Police tactics questioned in Toronto streetcar shooting death

But the public won’t get those answers any time soon: Blair said he can’t comment or take questions on the incident until the Special Investigations Unit is finished looking into the shooting, which could take several months.

Sammy Yatim was shot and killed just after midnight on Saturday on the 505 streetcar stopped at Dundas Street West and Bellwoods Avenue, west of Bathurst. The police officer believed to have shot Yatim has since been suspended with pay.

Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit (SIU) has been brought in to investigate Yatim’s death – as it does with all deaths involving police – and although Chief Blair refused to comment on the case he did promise to “fully cooperate.”

“The SIU unit has invoked their mandate and their investigation must take priority over all other enquiries,” he said.

Watch: Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair addresses streetcar shooting

Chief Blair also said he’ll do his own report into procedures and police practices, which will be forwarded to the Toronto Police Services Board after the SIU submits its findings.

“I am very aware that the public is very concerned about this tragic event,” Blair stated.

Yatim’s shooting death by police has drawn widespread attention after amateur video of the teen’s final moments were released on YouTube.

One witness aboard the streetcar tells Global News the 18-year-old was wielding a knife and that no one else was in the vehicle when he was shot.

Premier Kathleen Wynne described the incident as “tragic” but wouldn’t comment further while it is under investigation.

A small memorial grew Monday at the corner of Dundas Street and Bellwoods Avenue. A lamp pole was surrounded by candles, white roses and yellow daisies.

The pole was also adorned with messages left by strangers. “You were everyone’s son, everyone’s child” read one message.

Watch: Toronto Police shooting caught on camera
(WARNING: The videos below contain violent content that may be disturbing to some viewers)

A statement released Monday by the SIU indicated that Yatim “sustained multiple gunshot wounds” and that a “conducted energy weapon was also deployed.”

The SIU has assigned six investigators and two forensic investigators to probe the case.

The SIU examines incidents in which police are involved in reports of death, serious injury or allegations of sexual assault.

READ MORE: Ontario ombudsman to review police shooting of 18-year-old Toronto man

Facebook event page has been set up encouraging supporters to attend an “emergency vigil/march” to begin at Yonge Dundas Square at 5 p.m. Monday.

This will be followed by a march to Dundas and Bellwoods, the site where Yatim was killed, and then to the 14 Division police station.

Meanwhile, a “Justice For Sammy” page has also been set up which has since received over 4,000 likes.

© Shaw Media, 2013

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