Police Games II – Sammy Yatim

“Forcillo’s team cites ‘fresh evidence’ in appeal.” Toronto Star, Feb. 18. Of course!

Constable James Forcillo was convicted of attempted murder after shooting 18 year-old Sammy Yatim eight times on a Toronto streetcar on the evening of July 27, 2013. A ninth shot missed. This police killing wouldn’t have gone beyond a Special Investigations Unit examination and follow-up exoneration if it wasn’t for video taken by a passer-by.

See “A badge but no gun?” from May 22nd of 2016. Forcillo was not the first police officer on the scene. He wasn’t the third or the fourth. But, he began firing at this mentally distressed teenager carrying a small knife (one source reported it had a 3-inch blade) within seconds of arriving on the scene. Yatim was on the streetcar….the police were many feet away, and only Forcillo had his gun out at that point, and only Forcillo discharged his weapon.

The first three shots were fatal. Yatim fell to the streetcar floor. Forcillo then fired six more times six seconds later for “good measure”, as we put it 2016. One missed. A jury ruled the first three shots were justified (I kid you not!), but the others were overkill and thus the attempted murder conviction. Weird. Compounding the indignity, a dying Yatim was tasered by a second officer after he was down.

Forcillo had been on bail pending an appeal, but breached his conditions last year and is now in prison, awaiting the outcome of that appeal. A few weeks after bail was revoked, he was charged with perjury and attempting to obstruct justice.

So, what is this ‘fresh evidence’? Forcillo’s lawyers argue that research not heard at trial establishes that the officer was likely experiencing “perceptual distortions” when he fired the second volley, thinking Yatim was getting up after a shot through the heart moments earlier.

Even if one accepts that the first three shots were justified….after all, Sammy Yatim was as much a threat to an armed and armored Forcillo as is a cream pie thrown at a charging bull….his lawyers are still pushing the credibility envelope. But then, they’ll do this for as long as there’s a chance to justify this killing. After all, they have our money to work with.

There’s an eerie similarity here to the police shooting of Michael Eligon on February 3 in 2012, when the 29 year-old black father walked out of Toronto East General Hospital, where he was undergoing a 72-hour mental health assessment, wearing only a hospital gown and socks. He stole two pair of scissors from a local store and was wandering a neighbourhood street. Surrounded by police, one drew his revolver and fired three times. Two shots missed. The third killed the man. A resident’s video recorded the sounds of the gunfire, but not the scene. The police were cleared by the Special Investigations Unit.

What’s the biggest difference between Yatim and Eligon? A camera!

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