On Saturday, July 27 18-year old Sammy Yatim was shot dead by Toronto Police. He was on a streetcar near Trinity Bellwoods when he pulled out a knife, exposed himself and then ordered everyone off the streetcar. Police fired nine shots within 13 seconds and then tasered Sammy, who was by then lying motionless near the front door of the streetcar.
Multiple videos of the shooting have since gone viral on various social media platforms and much has been discussed regarding appropriate police procedures and his personal life. There has also been a protest since the incident that almost 1,600 people attended, including Sammy’s parents and another has been scheduled for 13th August on Facebook.
Many questions have been posed by the public as many are enraged at the excessive force undertaken by the police: Were nine shots really necessary? Was there really no other solution to the situation except to shoot Sammy? Why were there no other attempts to de-escalate the situation? Yet others feel that Sammy had almost dared them to shoot him.
Sammy was of Christian-Syrian heritage, Toronto Sun reports, dismissing any discussion regarding race or religion in this issue. “Some are trying to bring a racial and religious tone to the story … dozens of Islamists and leftists portrayed Sammy Yatim as a victim of the evil Christian West [during the protest march]” while others called him a “crazy Muslim.”
Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair has addressed the issue saying, “I know that people are seeking answers to what occurred, why it happened and if anything could have been done to prevent the tragic death of this young man.” As such, the Special Investigation Unit (SIU) has assigned six investigators and two forensic investigators to this incident.
Constable James Forcillo, the officer who shot Sammy to death, has been suspended with pay.
Sammy’s family have issued a statement that was read outside their home in North Toronto. In spite of the general public’s outburst at the Toronto police force regarding the shooting, the family said, “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 SIU continues to investigate this incident as the family plans for the funeral this Thursday. In the mean time, we have endless questions and very few answers.