Toronto cop found guilty

For­cillo guilty of at­tempted mur­der in teen’s death

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - CANADA - THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

A Toronto po­lice of­fi­cer has been found guilty of at­tempted mur­der in the 2013 shoot­ing death of a trou­bled teen on an empty street­car, an in­ci­dent that sparked pub­lic out­rage and street protests in the city.

Af­ter six days of de­lib­er­a­tions, the 11-mem­ber jury cleared Const. James For­cillo of the more se­ri­ous charge of sec­ond­de­gree mur­der in the death of 18-year-old Sammy Ya­tim in July 2013.

“This has been a long and ar­du­ous process for all of us,” said Su­pe­rior Court Jus­tice Ed­ward Then, who presided over the three-month trial.

For­cillo’s lawyer Peter Brauti in­di­cated the de­fence will try to have the pro­ceed­ings stayed — which hap­pens af­ter a find­ing of guilt but be­fore a con­vic­tion is reg­is­tered. It dis­en­ti­tles the state to a con­vic­tion be­cause of an abuse of process.

“We say the abuse of process is Const. For­cillo sub­stan­tially fol­lowed the po­lice train­ing he was given and so if the state gave him that train­ing, they should not be en­ti­tled to a con­vic­tion in the mat­ter,” Brauti said out­side the court­house. “This is Phase 1 of a long road for us.”

The 32-year-old of­fi­cer had pleaded not guilty to both charges in the shoot­ing in­ci­dent, which was cap­tured on cell­phone videos and went vi­ral on­line.

The pub­lic out­rage over the in­ci­dent — hun­dreds of peo­ple took to the streets of down­town Toronto to protest what they called po­lice bru­tal­ity — prompted the city’s po­lice chief to launch a re­view of of­fi­cers’ use of force and their re­sponse to emo­tion­ally dis­turbed peo­ple.

Crown pros­e­cu­tors had ar­gued For­cillo’s ac­tions weren’t nec­es­sary or rea­son­able, while his lawyer called those ac­tions jus­ti­fied and car­ried out in self­de­fence.

The jury heard that Ya­tim had con­sumed ec­stasy at some point be­fore board­ing a street­car, where videos showed him ex­pos­ing him­self and pulling out a small knife, caus­ing pan­icked pas­sen­gers to pour out of the ve­hi­cle when it came to a stop.

No one was in­jured in the melee and Ya­tim re­mained on the street­car, con­vers­ing at first with the ve­hi­cle’s driver, but he grew ag­gres­sive at the sound of ap­proach­ing po­lice sirens.

For­cillo — the first of­fi­cer on the scene — ap­proached with his gun drawn and screamed re­peat­edly at Ya­tim to drop the knife, but the teen re­fused and swore at po­lice, court heard.

When Ya­tim took a few steps back from the top of the street­car steps, For­cillo is­sued a warn­ing for him not to take an­other step for­ward. Ya­tim then moved back to where he had been stand­ing and For­cillo fired three times, caus­ing the teen to col­lapse.

The jury has heard that For­cillo then fired six more shots at Ya­tim.

The en­tire en­counter lasted about 50 sec­onds. Ya­tim was hit by eight out of nine bul­lets fired by For­cillo.

The se­cond-de­gree mur­der charge against the of­fi­cer re­lates to the first three shots he fired, while the at­tempted mur­der charge per­tains to the se­cond vol­ley.

For­cillo told the court he be­lieved the knife-tot­ing teen was about to come off the street­car to at­tack him, which was why he fired.

The Crown had ar­gued that For­cillo was a “hot­head and a bully” who ig­nored other vi­able use-of-force op­tions when he shot Ya­tim, but the de­fence said the pros­e­cu­tion was sim­ply try­ing to crim­i­nal­ize a judg­ment call made by a first re­spon­der.

Some lawyers who fol­lowed the case said it ap­peared jurors tried to reach a com­pro­mise.

The ver­dict sug­gests jurors be­lieved the first round of shots — which led to Ya­tim's death — was fired in self-de­fence, but found the se­cond vol­ley was un­jus­ti­fied, the lawyers said.

The Toronto po­lice union said it was con­cerned about the jury's de­ci­sion.

“It sends a chill­ing mes­sage to our mem­bers and that's go­ing to be a chal­lenge for our front­line mem­bers to deal with this is­sue,” said union pres­i­dent Mike McCor­mack.

“It has def­i­nitely im­pacted the psy­che of front­line of­fi­cers.”

CP PHOTO

Const. James For­cillo, right, ar­rives for his ver­dict at court in Toronto on Mon­day. A Toronto jury found For­cillo guilty of at­tempted mur­der in the 2013 shoot­ing death of a teen on an empty street­car.

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