Toronto police officer to be charged in streetcar shooting death of Sammy Yatim
VIDEO: SIU to charge police officer in death of Sammy Yatim. Lama Nicolas reports.
TORONTO – The family of the 18-year-old man shot to death while alone aboard a TTC streetcar last month is “relieved” that Ontario’s police watchdog will lay charges against Constable James Forcillo.
The Special Investigations Unit (SIU) announced Monday morning that it intends to charge Forcillo with second-degree murder in the shooting death of Sammy Yatim.
Yatim was wielding a knife on an empty streetcar, and died after being shot multiple times, then Tasered by police.
The Yatim family said in a statement released Monday afternoon that they want to hold all those responsible for Sammy’s death accountable.
“Our family hopes that the SIU investigation will continue looking into the actions of the supervising police officer(s) and the other officers in attendance for their lack of intervention in this tragedy,” the statement said. “Over 20 uniformed police officers were present and no one stepped forward to stop the gun shots or offer any mediation.”
Amateur footage by witnesses of Yatim’s shooting captured the sound of police officers shouting several times for Yatim to “drop the knife.”
Nine shots can be heard on the videos with the final six shots appearing to come after he had already fallen to the floor of the streetcar.
The SIU has made arrangements with Forcillo’s lawyer, Peter Brauti, for the constable to surrender himself into the custody of the SIU on Tuesday morning. He will then be taken to Old City Hall for his first court appearance.
Yatim’s sister, Sarah Ann, expressed her feelings over the decision on Twitter Monday morning.
The SIU charged the cop with 2nd degree murder!!! Good morning JUSTICE
— Sarah Ann Yatim (@SarahAnnYatim) August 19, 2013
Mike Deopersad, a friend of Sammy’s, said he is “overcome with joy.”
“His family is probably thanking God and everything that he is facing charges,” he said in an interview Monday. “I see it as justice. The shots were uncalled for, the Taser was uncalled for.”
Joseph Nazar, a family friend, said Sammy’s mother is “relieved” but knows “it’s not going to bring her son back.”
Nazar wants Yatim’s death to serve as a lesson for all police officers. He said he hopes police will soon receive increased training to diffuse crisis situations without the use of firearms.
Ontario Ombudsman Andre Marin announced earlier this month that his office will be investigating police policies for defusing crisis situations.
Watch: What are the ramifications of a Toronto police officer being charged with murder? Mark Carcasole reports.
Mike McCormack, President of the Toronto Police Association, said he is “disappointed” by the charges but not surprised.
“We’re disappointed seeing another officer charged. We’re not surprised, but you know we’ve always stated throughout this that we stand by the process.”
Several videos of the shooting went viral following the incident and McCormack said that has caused much of the public to form a “subjective” and incomplete view of what happened.
“People are making their opinion based on not having a comprehensive or a full idea of what happened, or they saw a video on YouTube and we have a problem with that,” McCormack said. “Let’s see what the real story [is], let’s see what really happened, and then let’s have an honest and robust discussion about that.”
But with a police officer now set to be charged with second-degree murder, there is a “negative impact on morale” across the Toronto Police Service, McCormack said. He hopes, that the charges will not keep other officers from hesitating to make “tough decisions.”
“My concern is always, I don’t want to see an officer hesitate in a life and death situation,” he said in an interview Monday. “They’re well-trained, they’re professional people and I hope they will do the right thing and make those tough decisions. But again, this is part of being a police officer that you make these decisions. You get paid to make these decisions.”
The SIU is an arm’s-length agency that investigates reports involving police where there has been death, serious injury or allegations of sexual assault. Since 1990, the agency has investigated more than 100 firearm deaths involving police. Forcillo is just the third police officer to be charged with second-degree murder.
Meanwhile, Toronto police tweeted that they will not make any comments regarding Forcillo’s murder charge.
Yatim’s death prompted outrage across the city and on social media, with more than 30,000 people signing a petition calling for criminal charges to be laid against the officer.
Police Chief Bill Blair announced last week that retired judge Dennis O’Connor would help him in a separate review of police use of force in dealing with emotionally disturbed persons.
-with files from The Canadian Press and Mark Carcasole
© 2013 Shaw Media