Sammy Yatim’s family is “relieved” that Ontario’s police watchdog is recommending a second-degree murder charge be laid against Toronto police officer James Forcillo.
“The Yatim Family is relieved [by the charges]. We have been waiting patiently and cooperating with the police investigation and want to hold accountable all those responsible for Sammy’s death,” the family said in a statement issued Monday afternoon.
The family said it hopes the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) will continue looking into the actions of the supervising police officer and the other officers in attendance “for their lack of intervention in this tragedy.”
The SIU charged the cop with 2nd degree murder!!! Good morning JUSTICE
— Sarah Ann Yatim (@SarahAnnYatim) August 19, 2013
Yatim was killed on an empty streetcar on July 27 in an incident captured on surveillance and cellphone videos. He was armed with a knife and was alone on the streetcar.
Nine shots can be heard on the videos following shouts for Yatim to drop the knife. The final six appear to come after Yatim had already fallen to the floor of the streetcar.
The shooting death made headlines around the world and sparked fresh debate locally about police tactics.
Yatim’s family continued: “Over 20 uniformed police officers were present and no one stepped forward to stop the gun shots or offer any mediation.”
“We want to work now to ensure that Sammy’s blood wasn’t wasted and to prevent any other families from enduring such a tragedy,” the family said.
Earlier on Monday, the SIU said there were “reasonable grounds” to charge Forcillo with second-degree murder.
Forcillo, who was suspended with pay from the force last month following the incident, will surrender to the police watchdog at an undisclosed location on Tuesday morning and will be taken to the Old City Hall courthouse for a brief court appearance before a Justice of the Peace. Forcillo’s lawyer Peter Brauti wasn’t immediately available for comment.
Forcillo, who has received death threats, will be detained in police custody. The Criminal Code allows an accused to have the detention order reviewed in Superior Court and seek bail, the SIU said.
Police union head Mike McCormack said he was shocked by the second-degree murder charge but not surprised it was laid.
Meanwhile, the shooting prompted both Toronto police chief Bill Blair and Ontario ombudsman Andre Marin for an investigation into the government’s guidelines to police on how to de-escalate conflict situations.
Yatim’s family, along with the families of other police shooting victims in Ontario, is also calling for a change in police tactics.
Ruth Schaeffer, whose son Levi was killed by police, said police need to have more of an emphasis on de-escalation rather than using force, but what’s needed is action, not more studies and inquests.
“We have studies and reports gathering dust in places all over this country,” Schaeffer said last week during a news conference.
“We’ve paid probably millions of tax dollars to have those things done. All the recommendations that need to be put in place to safeguard the life of Canadian citizens are sitting in print for anybody who’s interested to implement those things.”
A coroner’s inquest into the deaths of three people — who may have had mental health issues, and were shot and killed after approaching Toronto police officers with weapons — is scheduled to begin in October.
Retired judge Dennis O’Connor will be assisting in an internal review of Toronto police and the use of force in dealing with emotionally disturbed persons.
With files from The Canadian Press