Crown calls Toronto cop on trial ‘a hot­head and a bully’

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - CANADA -

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.

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