Coroner's inquest begins into death of Sammy Yatim at the hands of Toronto police

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Coroner’s inquest begins into death of Sammy Yatim at the hands of Toronto police

New light on police techniques for de-escalating force when faced with individuals in distress on the public highway.

A friend of Sammy Yatim holds a photograph outside the Toronto courthouse during the trial of James Forcillo, who was convicted of attempted murder of the 18-year-old.

Toronto opens the coroner's inquest into the 2013 death of Sammy Yatim on a streetcar in Toronto. metropolis. This is not the first investigation into the use of force in policing and police mental health training in the province, but it follows a criminal trial in the province. from which a police officer was sentenced to prison.

The Office of the Chief Coroner of the province cannot reveal the identity of the parties involved in this investigation before the start of the hearings, which will be held at the Complex of judicial services in the north of the metropolis.

But presumably Sammy Yatim's family and the Toronto Police Service will be represented.

Radio-Canada has nevertheless learned that the group Empowerment Council, which defends people with mental health problems, has received permission to present its arguments there.

L' Class attorney Anita Szigeti expects the jury to make recommendations to prevent such a tragedy from happening again, such as emphasizing training for police officers when they find themselves in trouble. presence of a citizen in distress on the public highway.

It is important to help police officers make informed decisions in such circumstances and to follow their training to the letter, she explains.

Anita Szigeti, a lawyer for the Empowerment Council, which defends people with mental illness.

This is not the first time that the Empowerment Council group has participated in this kind of coroner's inquest, as it tries to convey the vulnerable position in which citizens with substance abuse or substance abuse problems mental health find themselves in the presence of the police.

At the time, Sammy Yatim showed his penis to female passengers seated at the back of the tram before brandishing a knife, creating panic on board the train.

Regardless of whether he had ever sought mental health care in the past, it is evident that he was in distress on the evening of his death as the trial of the policeman who killed him showed. shot dead and that his behavior should have alerted anyone on the tram, says Szigeti.

Police officer James Forcillo was sentenced to six years in prison after was convicted in 2016 of attempted murder of the 18-year-old on a city tram.

Officer James Forcillo walks out of court in Toronto after a day of hearing at his 2016 trial.

< p class="e-p">Sammy Yatim's death galvanized Torontonians in many ways because it was a shocking and horrific shooting, the lawyer recalls.

Unusual fact: Constable Forcillo was acquitted of a main charge of unpremeditated murder for the first three shots he fired at the teenager.

He had however been found guilty of attempted murder for the last six shots against the victim who was already lying on the floor of the train.

Sammy Yatim's mother, Sahar Bahadi, is expected to attend the hearings in coroner's court.

The province, however, had to wait until the former officer had exhausted all his remedies before the courts before holding the coroner's inquest into the death of Sammy Yatim. The Supreme Court had refused in 2018 to hear his appeal.

“It is essential to ensure that no police officer acts like a criminal by making a fatal unilateral decision instead of respecting the training they have received.

— Empowerment Council lawyer Anita Szigeti

James Forcillo was paroled in January 2020 after serving 4 years in prison. He had been dismissed from his service as soon as the guilty verdict fell.

The Toronto Coroner's Court is located in the Court Services Complex in the North Metropolis.

The coroner's court is expected to hear eleven witnesses over the next ten days on the circumstances of the young man's death. The hearings will be chaired by Dr. David Cameron.

The jury should logically reach a verdict of homicide and submit recommendations to the province to prevent such a tragedy from happening again. A verdict of accidental death, however, is not impossible (the verdicts of a coroner's jury are never binding, however, editor's note).

It's not is not, however, the first coroner's inquest into the deadly behavior of police officers in the metropolis.

Already in 1999, the Office of the Chief Coroner of the province had ordered an inquest into the death of Edmond Yu, who had been killed two years earlier by the police in a bus in the metropolis in which he brandished a small hammer.

The circumstances surrounding Mr. Yu's death most closely resemble those in which Sammy Yatim was killed in 2013, the lawyer says.

Sammy Yatim was shot dead by Constable Forcillo in July 2013 while brandishing a knife in a Toronto streetcar.

Me Szigeti recalls that there was also a coroner's inquest after the death of Andrew Loku in 2015 and that of Andrew Loku; Otto Vaas in 2000, still in the hands of Toronto police.

The difference with this morning's inquest is that it is the first to follow a criminal trial in which a Toronto police officer was found guilty and sentenced to prison for opening fire on a citizen in distress, she said.

In the other cases, the police had not been put in charge or, for those who had been charged, they had been acquitted at the end of their criminal trial.

So we know, in this case, from the trial and the video of the events, what exactly happened on the streetcar the night the police confronted Sammy Yatim, she continues.

Image from surveillance video of the tram Sammy Yatim was in before he was shot by police

The lawyer adds that the guilty verdict against James Forcillo proves that there was indeed professional misconduct on the part of the police that evening.

Me Szigeti adds that it is wrong to believe that these inquests are useless, because the recommendations of juries will sit on the shelves at the Office of the Chief Coroner for Ontario.< /p>

She explains that the Toronto police, for example, have changed over the years their methods of de-escalating violence in the presence of citizens in a state of crisis.

The Toronto Police Service has certainly improved its techniques regarding the use of force for example… it remains to be seen why it failed in the case in the case of Agent Forcillo, she concludes.

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