Crown calls Toronto cop on trial ‘a hothead and a bully’
A Toronto police officer who shot down a teen on an empty streetcar was “a hothead and a bully” who had viable alternatives to lethal force but didn’t use them, a Crown prosecutor argued Thursday.
Const. James Forcillo has pleaded not guilty to second degree murder and attempted murder in the death of 18-yearold Sammy Yatim — an incident which triggered outrage across the city two and a half years ago.
As the trial draws to a close, Crown prosecutor Milan Rupic told jurors Forcillo wanted to assert his authority over a “mouthy, mocking teenager” without trying to make a connection with a person he knew was in crisis.
“During his standoff with Sammy Yatim the defendant was a hothead and a bully,” Rupic said in his closing address. “He wore the uniform of a police officer but he did not act like a police officer.”
Forcillo’s lawyer has argued in his own closing statement that the Crown is trying to “criminalize a judgement call” made by a first responder.
In calling for Forcillo’s acquittal, defence lawyer Peter Brauti has said the officer’s actions were justified and carried out in self-defence.
He has also placed blame for the incident squarely on Yatim’s shoulders, saying the knife-toting, unco-operative teen “got himself shot.”
But Rupic attacked that suggestion head on.
“It is wrong to say Sammy Yatim got himself shot,” said Rupic. “It was not necessary and it was not reasonable for the defendant Forcillo to shoot the young man.”
The jury has heard that on a night in July 2013, Yatim had taken the drug ecstasy before boarding a streetcar where he pulled out a small knife, sparking a panicked mass exodus after the vehicle came to a stop.
Surveillance video and audio played at the trial have shown that Forcillo arrived on scene and screamed repeatedly at Yatim, who remained on the streetcar, to “drop the knife.”
Yatim refused and hurled expletives at Forcillo and an increasing amount of other officers, and the confrontation escalates when the teen takes a few steps back from his position at the top of the streetcar’s front steps.
Toronto police Const. James Forcillo arrives at court for the prosecution’s closing arguments in the shooting death of Sammy Yatim, in Toronto Thursday.