Preliminary inquiry set for Toronto cop in streetcar shooting death

TORONTO – A preliminary inquiry has been set with “highly unusual” speed for a Toronto police officer charged in the shooting death of a young man on a streetcar.

Const. James Forcillo, 30, is charged with second-degree murder in the death of 18-year-old Sammy Yatim.

He was not in court Monday but his lawyers scheduled the preliminary hearing, which is held to determine if there is enough evidence to go to trial, for next spring.

Preliminary inquiries aren’t generally scheduled so early in the process, lawyer Peter Brauti said outside court.

“It’s highly unusual,” he said.

“I don’t know in many cases where it’s happened and certainly where somebody’s been charged with murder, I don’t ever remember it happening. So it’s unusual but the Crown and the defence are working hard together to make sure we move this thing forward and give the public confidence that it’s being dealt with appropriately.”

Monday was the first time the case had been in court since Forcillo first appeared in court in August and was granted $510,000 bail.

Yatim was shot multiple times and Tasered on an empty streetcar in July.

It was captured on surveillance and cellphone video on which nine shots can be heard following shouts for him to drop a knife.

Toronto’s police chief has appointed retired Supreme Court justice Frank Iacobucci to conduct a sweeping review of use-of-force policies.

Ontario’s ombudsman has also launched an investigation, probing what kind of direction the provincial government provides to police for defusing conflict situations.

Brauti said outside court that calling reviews on the shooting seems to be the “flavour of the day,” but the nature of them makes it clear Forcillo’s conduct is not being looked at in isolation.

“One thing that’s telling about the case is if this was just a rogue cop who was out there shooting somebody just on a whim you wouldn’t have a bunch of reviews like we’re having,” he said.

“They’re reviews about: should we have more Tasers, should we be as a whole reacting differently to these kind of circumstances, should we have increased training to de-escalate situations, and I think that that’s telling that we’re looking at systemic issues as opposed to his conduct in these reviews.”

Forcillo’s case is set for another likely brief appearance Dec. 11. Lawyers are expected to attend in Forcillo’s place.

The preliminary inquiry has been set for April 22 to May 9 and June 16 to 20, 2014.

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