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Toronto cop charged in shooting death of teen

August 19, 2013

TORONTO (AP) — Ontario’s police watchdog on Monday charged a Toronto police officer with murder in the shooting death of a young man wielding a knife in an empty streetcar.

The shooting last month was caught on video and posted on YouTube, leading to an outcry in Canada’s largest city.

The video shows 18-year-old Sammy Yatim holding a knife inside the streetcar, with police outside. Yatim goads the officers, who yell, “Drop your knife!”

Shortly after, nine shots are fired. The final six shots appear to come after Yatim has fallen to the floor. A Taser is then used.

Yatim died from multiple gunshot wounds.

The Special Investigations Unit announced Monday that it has charged Const. James Forcillo with second-degree murder.

Yatim’s sister praised the move. “The SIU charged the cop with 2nd degree murder!!! Good morning JUSTICE,” Sarah Yatim said on Twitter.

Forcillo has arranged through his lawyer to turn himself in Tuesday morning, at which time he will be taken into custody and appear in court, the Special Investigations Unit said in a statement.

Forcillo, who was suspended last month with pay last month, could seek bail in Superior Court.

“Obviously we’re disappointed,” Toronto Police Association President Mike McCormack told The Associated Press. “We’re not surprised but we’re disappointed. We stand by processes so we have to see where it goes from here. We’re always disappointed to see officers charged, especially with first-degree murder.”

“There are presumptively grounds (for his arrest) but that’s why we have to see where it goes, where the events lead. It doesn’t change that we’re disappointed that an officer is charged,” said McCormack, adding that the public has judged the incident by people watching the video on YouTube without having a real understanding of the total picture.

The charge is very rare, said McCormack, who could only point to one other Toronto officer being charged with second-degree murder in recent memory. He said the number of officers who face murder charges annually are in the single digits.

Peter Brauti, the lawyer representing Forcillo, could not immediately be reached for comment.

Yatim’s death prompted hundreds of people to take to the streets on two separate days of protest to call for justice.

Toronto’s police chief has said retired justice Dennis O’Connor will lead a separate review of police procedures, use of force and police response to emotionally disturbed people.

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

Update hourly