Sammy Yatim, 18, wielded a knife in a confrontation on a Toronto street car last week and was met with nine bullets. The police officer who fired the shots and killed the teen was identified Tuesday by the Toronto Star as Const. James Forcillo.
“The guy’s distraught,” Toronto Police Association President Mike McCormack told the Star. “He’s having a tough time with it.”
“It’s tragic for everybody,” McCormack said. “This is not a situation anybody wanted to be in.”
A police source identified Forcillo as the officer responsible, though McCormack and other officials would not confirm. The Star called Forcillo’s home Tuesday night and the officer refused to comment, saying, “Please respect our privacy.”
The Star quotes Forcillo’s defense attorney, Peter Brauti: “Like any officer involved in a loss-of-life incident, this officer is devastated. … All we can do at this point is wait for the investigation into the matter to conclude. It is important that people not rush to judgment in this matter.”
Hundreds of protesters marched through Toronto on Monday evening, holding signs decrying the force used by police. One sign, shown in a Global News broadcast, read: “Help us fight for the innocent killed by ‘authorities.’”
The protesters marched from the scene of the shooting to a police station. A man at the site of the protest outside the station who did not give his name commented to Global News: “I’m sure all those police officers feel terrible about it, and the notion of all of us sitting here and shouting at these guys—they didn’t do it.”
Yatim’s mother, Sahar Bahadi, told Global News in an interview at her home: “The thing I care that, they shoot my kid, my son and I didn’t know why. I watched the video, he was standing with a knife, not with a [gun] but with a knife and I felt that he was very afraid, I felt it. I felt that he was very afraid.”
Forcillo has been suspended with pay, a response Abby Deshman of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association called “an unusual step,” in a taped interview with the Toronto Star.
“The people would like a response now,” Deshman said, urging the police department not to drag out the investigation into the incident. She noted that a YouTube video uploaded by a witness showing the scene has played an important role in stoking public ire. (See video below)
“Videos are very emotional to watch, they are a very direct experience for the viewer, they also do allow people to form opinions much more quickly than if we had multiple competing narratives,” Deshman said.
A Facebook page titled “Sammy’s Fight Back for Justice” had almost 10,000 “likes” as of Wednesday morning.
Facebook users debated the case.
Michael Waleed Alvarez wrote: “[Yatim] played a big role in a violent incident. I think the family needs to except he’s not this victim they are portraying him to be. If he had a mental disability and his family knew then they are responsible for not getting him help and allowing him to collect knives. Either way this young man and the police showed stupidity on both sides.”
Steve Houle responded: “All he had was a knife, yes he wasn’t innocent but to be shot dead by 9 gun shot for having a knife is outrageous, he had no where to go, so obviously could have been arrested without being killed!”
The page administrators announced Yatim’s funeral to take place Thursday at 11 a.m. at Highland Funeral Home–Scarborough Chapel. A viewing will take place 6–9 p.m. Wednesday at the same location.