Note: This article was originally published Aug. 20, 2013 but has been updated to reflect the Sept. 12 clearing of all charges against Toronto Police Const. David Cavanagh.
TORONTO – Toronto Police Const. James Forcillo was charged Monday with second-degree murder in the death of Sammy Yatim. The 18-year-old was shot multiple times on a streetcar last month.
Forcillo is the 11th police officer in Ontario to be charged with second-degree murder or manslaughter since the inception in 1990 of the Special Investigations Unit, which looks into deaths, injuries or allegations of sexual assault involving police.
All have been cleared in the deaths except for Forcillo, who is now before the courts.
Nepean Police Const. John Monette: Acquitted of manslaughter in the 1991 shooting death of Vincent Gardner. Monette shot Gardner during a botched drug raid after apparently mistaking Gardner’s guitar for a gun.
Chatham Police Const. Ron Tricker: Convicted in 1993 of manslaughter in the death of John Rioux. He was later acquitted on appeal. Rioux died after Tricker and two other officers wrestled him to his dining room floor following a dispute over a speeding ticket. A coroner’s jury decided that Rioux suffocated because he was lying on his stomach while officers were trying to handcuff him. A pathologist had previously found that Rioux died from trauma to the larynx associated with neck compression and aspiration of vomit.
York Region Det. Robert Wiche: A charge of manslaughter in the 1996 death of a 16-year-old boy was dismissed at a preliminary hearing. Faraz Suleman was shot after a car chase as police tried to arrest him on charges of robbery and illegal possession of a firearm related in a carjacking investigation.
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Metro Toronto Police Det.-Const. Rick Shank: Acquitted of manslaughter in the 1997 shooting death of Hugh Dawson. The drug suspect was killed during a botched takedown on an east-end street. Shank’s trial heard that Dawson reversed his car to get away from police and rammed the car of a family of five. Police shot him nine times. The defence argued Shank believed his life and those of other officers were in grave danger.
York Region Const. Randy Martin: Acquitted of second-degree murder in the 1998 shooting death of Tony Romagnuolo, who was shot four times outside his home in Sunderland, Ont. Two other officers were acquitted of other charges in the double shooting that also left Romagnuolo’s 17-year-old son critically wounded. Police arrived at the home to arrest the son on a threatening charge and a melee broke out after the son refused to go with police. The Romagnuolos testified the officers pulled their guns and began shooting during fist fights. Martin said his life hung in the balance as he fought for control of his gun. A fellow officer said he shot 17-year-old Rocco Romagnuolo to prevent the teen from helping his father and gaining control of Martin’s gun. The father was left dying in the snow as police drove his oldest son away and Rocco lay nearby with a bullet in his abdomen.
Toronto Police Const. Robert Lemaitre, Const. Phillip Duncan, Const. Nam Le and Const. Filippo Bevilacqua: Acquitted of manslaughter in the 2000 death of Otto Vass. The 55-year-old man had suffered for years from mental illness and died after an altercation with police outside a downtown convenience store. The coroner’s office said the medical cause of death was cardiac arrest due to acute mania and excited delirium in a man with bi-polar disorder.
Toronto Police Const. David Cavanagh: He was originally charged with manslaughter after 26-year-old Eric Osawe was shot as the Emergency Task Force guns and gangs unit searched an apartment in Toronto’s west end in 2010. The Osawe family’s lawyer has said the man was shot in the back. The charge was later upgraded to second-degree murder, but at the end of a preliminary inquiry this spring a judge dismissed the charge after deciding there was insufficient evidence to commit Cavanagh to trial. The Crown appealed, asking the judge to reinstate the manslaughter charge, but on Sept. 12 an Ontario Superior Court judge dismissed the appeal, saying Cavanagh’s gun accidentally discharged, shooting Osawe during a struggle.
Toronto Police Const. James Forcillo: Charged on Aug. 19 with second-degree murder in the death of Sammy Yatim.