Police guidelines questioned after shooting death of 18-year-old Toronto man


TORONTO – The use of police force in the shooting death of a young man in Toronto has prompted Ontario’s ombudsman to question whether it is time for the provincial government to review police de-escalation guidelines.

Andre Marin said Wednesday he has ordered a “case assessment” to determine if a full-fledged investigation into those guidelines is necessary in the wake of Sammy Yatim’s death.

The 18-year-old died Saturday morning after receiving multiple gunshot wounds during what the province’s police watchdog called an “interaction” with police.

The incident, which was captured on surveillance and cellphone video, has sparked public outrage over police use of force.

Marin said his office will examine the direction and guidelines provided by the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services to Ontario’s police for de-escalating situations that could potentially result in the use of force.

He said the Ministry has the power to set standards for the province’s police services.

“The latest shooting by a Toronto police officer raises the question of whether it is time for the Ministry to direct Ontario police services on how to de-escalate situations of conflict before they lead to the use of fatal force,” he said in a statement.

Marin added that the ombudsman’s case assessment will not affect the ongoing investigation by the province’s Special Investigations Unit, but his office will monitor any issues relating to police co-operation with the SIU.

The SIU has said Yatim died after receiving multiple gunshot wounds and that a Taser was also used.

In one video that has circulated online, Yatim can be seen pacing an empty streetcar as shouts of “drop the knife” are heard. Then nine shots can be heard —first three shots in succession then six more after a pause of about six seconds.

All police officers in Canada learn the same use-of-force model where lethal force is the last option, said Paul McKenna, a Dalhousie University lecturer who has been a consultant in police departments for 25 years.

“The best weapon that police have in these kinds of circumstances is actually time,” he said, adding that police need to look for “the best solution not the lethal solution.”

The use-of-force model is a continuum that compels officers to make a choice of weapon depending on the situation, McKenna said.

For lethal force, there has to be a “perceived and reasonable” threat of imminent death to the officer, a member of the public or the subject, he said.

The officer involved in the shooting has been identified as Const. James Forcillo. His lawyer, Peter Brauti, said he is reviewing the case, but has not yet decided whether to recommend Forcillo submit to an SIU interview.

Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair has said his office would conduct its own review of the shooting.

Yatim’s family said in a statement on Tuesday that they do not blame all of the Toronto police force for the death of their son.

“We want to be clear that we do not hold any ill will against the thousands of police officers who work to protect us each day. This is a tragedy for all involved.”

The family also thanked Blair for promising to fully co-operate with the SIU investigation.

“We expect that this matter will be investigated with the fullest measure of the law, so that incidents like this can be better managed and de-escalated before such extreme use of force is ever exercised again,” the family said.

Meanwhile the grief-stricken family has planned a funeral Thursday at 11 a.m.

Close family friend Joseph Nazar said Yatim’s parents are “devastated.”

“His mother hasn’t eaten in days,” he said, adding that friends have been trying to feed her spoonfuls of soup.

And the same is true for Yatim’s father, Nazar said.

“I’ve told him … he needs to be able to stand at the funeral,” he said.

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Police guidelines questioned after shooting death of 18-year-old Toronto man

  1. I’m betting that by the time that this whole tragic affair comes to trial that the Toronto police force will have found grounds to justify the brutal killing of this disturbed young man. They will win their case in court and the officer, James Forcillio, found innocent on all charges. The Toronto police can’t afford to admit culpability in the shooting death of Sammy Yatim and will, despite mounting evidence to prove otherwise, suggest that he may have had connections to a terrorist organization. They can’t afford to pay the damages that lawyer’s will ask for a wrongful death suit brought by the family. The officer will keep his job, be reassigned to desk duty, and the whole thing swept conveniently aside.

    • Well it’s pretty clear that your mind is made up. Why bother with evidence or an investigation?
      I’m leaning toward it being an unwarranted shooting based on the evidence released to date, but I’m not so cynical to automatically rule out anything that may indicate otherwise. Clearly, though, there are those who simply will not believe any evidence that does not back up their preconceived notion of the truth (ironically, those same people usually accuse the police of having tunnel vision and bias).

    • There may never be any information on why Sammy Yatim behaved the way he did. If the stories are accurate he is a young man with no previous behavior issues who exposed himself and pulled a knife on several people. One witness reported, he pressed the knife into the chest of the driver of the street car. After a young man used his bicycle to get everyone safely off the car, Sammy Yatim, stayed in the doorway showing police the knife and did not respond to their verbal commands to drop the knife.
      We may also never know why one police officer seemingly panicked after telling Sammy Yatim repeatedly to drop the weapon and not come any closer. Shooting a gun 9 times does indicate to me a kind of panic response.
      In so far as your assumption that the group that investigates police shootings will do a whitewash, I understand it is a separate organization that does these investigations. I cannot believe that they will conclude that Sammy Yatim was a terrorist as I am not sure but I think it is unlikely that terrorists are apt to expose themselves prior to taking hostages. It may be possible that both Sammy Yatim and the police officer were suffering from some mental health issues. Either way, it is shame that they didn’t have some mental health professionals on site as I understand they do employ crisis workers in the police force.

    • The knife guy looks like a thug to me.

      Officer wants to go home to his family after the shift.

      It seems reasonable that the officer did not want the knife waving guy to come off the bus and throw a grenade or bomb at him, his fellow police officers or other people in the area.

      Any time you display a weapon, threaten, and move toward the police when you are given a LAWFUL COMMAND NOT TO DO SO; expect to be shot dead.

      I feel sorry for the family but I also feel sorry for the policeman who felt forced to do this by the crazy guy. The officer must be having a very emotional time made even harder with the idiots who want to find fault with him.

      When are people going to understand there are consequences for bad behaviour.

      All the nut jobs would be screaming “racism” except he looks white.

      • I am sure he is devastated; but maybe could have been suitably devastated after 3 shots, and not have to move on to pouring 6 more into the kid.

  2. I like firemen. They are still brave and enter flaming smoke filled buildings to rescue people even animals. They are brave and fearless with beams crashing all around.
    In the old days a cop would be brave too, tackle a knife wielding teen, at risk of getting cut maybe hurt more, but they knew the life of a teen was precious to be protected at all costs.
    Or like a suicide threat on a bridge they would talk the person down even if it took hours even days. And risk their own lives.
    In those days tasers,tear gas, pepper spray, were not available. But firing 9 shots into a teen would have been unthinkable.

  3. I am disappointed and disgusted that police murdered Sammy Yatim. This was totally un-necessary. Time and patience were. We do not live in a police state!
    There have been previous cases where the mentally ill have been shot by police. The issue of mental health should be taken into consideration before shooting. The only threat was a knife, not a gun!
    My sympathy goes to the family.

    • i think many people of you dont get the point, its not once officers failure!
      if what he has done is wrong (officer) which it defnatly is, then the other could have intereferred and stopped the office from further shooting but just saying a WORD like stop!… nobody gave a shit… i think depp inside police enjoys the usage of their guns… all of the surrounding officers should be accused of support in murder in my opinion. im from germany, what your police does is unthinkable in any way in most other areas of the world.

  4. With other means available to police (negotiation, taser, extended standoff, etc), deadly force was not neccesary. The video shows at least twenty police officers at the scene. I don’t know if overkill is logically possible but nine rounds just might qualify.