Sunday, January 3, 2016

Remembering Sammy Yatim

To listen to James Forcillo, the Toronto police officer who shot Sammy Yatim eight times as the knife-wielding teen stood inside an empty streetcar, he had no choice but to kill him:
"If I had done nothing, he would have stabbed me," Const. James Forcillo said at his trial, being held in front of a jury in Ontario Superior Court. "If I had waited for the Taser, he would have been off the streetcar. He forced my hand. He was the one who decided to come forward."
If you have watched any of the video of that fateful night (available on this blog), you will likely find that a difficult defence to accept, especially given the distance that separated Yatim and Forcillo. Was there a better way to have handled the situation? A recent machete attack in Toronto that was stopped by two unarmed security guards suggests there was:

The security guards in the above say that they were just doing their job. It's a pity that the Toronto police seem to have an entirely different way of looking at their positions. It is a perspective that has raised the ire of some Toronto Star readers:

Re: Security guards were just doing their jobs, Dec. 26

Please help me to understand this situation. On Dec. 23, an unarmed security guard was willing and able to risk his life by tackling and disarming an apparently agitated, machete-wielding man who had already injured an apparently innocent passerby.

In contrast, early in the morning of July 27, 2013, one Toronto Police Service officer fired multiple rounds into a knife-wielding man who had harmed no one, and another TPS officer deployed a taser on the recumbent, mortally wounded man.

Three questions: First, why is the TPS failing to train its officers as well as the security company seems to have trained its guards?

Second, why is the TPS failing to recruit officers who are apparently as brave and resourceful as this security guard and his partner demonstrated themselves to be?

Third, if the TPS had attended at the incident on Dec. 23 would we now be facing another scenario in which an accused person never had the opportunity to stand trial for the charges against him?

Edward Bricknell, Toronto

There is an important lesson to be learned from the recent incident near the Eaton Centre, where a man wielding a machete and a hunting knife was successfully disarmed by two security guards.

It would have been easy for them just to call the police, but the situation required immediate action to avert any further danger to the public. The security guards followed their training and immediately resolved a volatile situation that could have resulted in many more casualties.

This should be a salutary reminder to law enforcement officers when dealing with armed assailants. The use of a lethal weapon to resolve such situations must remain an option, but only as a last resort, not a first response.

Keith Spicer, Oakville

The headline says it all about Nathaniel McNeil, the unarmed security guard who tackled a machete-wielding man near the Eaton Centre. How many times have the Toronto police encountered a knife-wielding person (often mentally ill) who ends up being shot and killed. Perhaps the Toronto police should follow the example and/or learn from these security guards.

J.G. Wong, Toronto

So a security guard is able, with his bare hands, to disarm a machete-wielding lunatic who had attacked an innocent bystander, yet Constable Forcillo, flanked by members of his force, felt it necessary to pump 8 bullets into Sammy Yatim despite the fact that no citizens were at risk.

What a coward.

Michelle McCarthy, Toronto

You can read the rest of the letter here.


  1. Forcillo's remarks are plainly late-invention excuses. Yatim never put one foot into the stepwell. Every round struck him as he stood or lay prone in the aisle. With Forcillo's first round Yatim was down and, once down, he never attempted to get up nor, as I recall the videos, did he so much as raise his hand. It's not even clear that Yatim was still holding the knife once he collapsed.

    Implausible as the "if I had done nothing, he would have stabbed me" fabrication is, it surely was at best limited to the first round that took Yatim down. Once that young man was down on the aisle floor he wasn't a threat to anyone, including Forcillo. That didn't stop the cop from plugging Yatim twice more than pausing for five seconds before emptying the remaining six rounds from his automatic.

    It's a line of defence almost as egregious as when Forcillo's counsel tried to equate the 30 plus seconds that elapsed between when the cop pulled his weapon on Yatim and then opened fire as a "heat of the moment" situation that shouldn't be second-guessed. Two seconds, three maybe is a "heat of the moment" situation. Thirty seconds? Not even close.

    I take these things as a measure of the desperation in which the defence finds itself. Counsel is playing a genuinely lousy hand and is left to make preposterous claims in hope that somehow, something may miraculously work.

    1. I sincerely hope justice prevails here, Mound, but given the wide latitude that is accorded the police, my fear and my suspicion is that it will not.