POLICE USE OF FORCE

The Shooting of Sammy Yatim – Justified or Not?

The recent fatal shooting of Sammy Yatim (18) by a Toronto Police Officer has proven to be a highly controversial incident.  The tragic event was captured on cell phone video and has now gone viral.  Members of the viewing public have expressed outrage and have participated in several emotionally charged rallies for Justice.

The question at the center of the maelstrom is, “Was the shooting justified?”

Yatim was a passenger on a street car who exposed himself, brandished a knife and chased off the passengers and driver.  When Police arrived he presented himself as an armed, non-compliant, verbally aggressive subject.  (He can be clearly heard in the video taunting a Police Officer stating, “You’re a fucking pussy.”)

A deadly force threat requires three (3) specific elements, a) Weapon, b) Intent and c) Delivery System – ie: the subject must be capable of using the weapon against someone.  In this case all three elements exist during the first phase of the confrontation; a)  Yatim is armed with an edged weapon capable of causing death or grievous bodily harm, b) he demonstrates the requisite intent with his verbal non-compliance and by waving the weapon around and c) he had a delivery system in that he was in close enough proximity to the officers to attack them with the knife.

Universally accepted use of force protocols dictate that an appropriate response to such a threat is deadly force.  Some use of force experts may suggest the use of lower force options by front line prime response Police Officers facing a deadly weapon threat is ill-advised and inappropriate.

The Criminal Code of Canada dictates Police Officers are justified in using deadly force when they believe on “reasonable grounds” that they, or any person under their protection, is in danger of suffering death or grievous bodily harm.

In this case, Yatim clearly presented himself as someone who had the potential to cause death or grievous bodily harm to the Police Officers at the scene and to members of the Public if he had been permitted to leave the street car.  His weapon, verbal non-compliance and verbal aggression elevated the risk he posed to the Police and members of the Public.

Any Police Officer standing in the shoes of the contact officer would have properly come to the conclusion the threat had to be contained on the street car.  That is, if the subject made a move to exit the bus, deadly force would have to be used to stop him.

Permitting an armed, aggressive subject the freedom to exit the street car was simply not an option.  The potential negative ramifications of doing so could have been immense.  The contact officer had the responsibility to contain the threat.

As the first shots rang out, Yatim could clearly been seen moving towards the front of the bus near the front exit doors.  After the first burst of three (3) shots almost six seconds elapse before a further six (6) shots are fired after which time Police continued to yell to Yatim to drop the knife.  A short time later a taser is discharged and runs for a full five (5) second cycle.

Yatim was subsequently conveyed to Hospital and was pronounced deceased.

The shooting raises many questions.

As a former tactical team member and Supervisor responsible for investigating Police Officer Involved Shooting Incidents I will weigh in on some of the obvious questions and base opinions strictly on experience and a review of the video evidence.

Q Was the shooting justified?

  • A In order to come to an appropriate conclusion a detailed interview of the contact officer is required.  His mindset, interpretation and articulation of the threat are essential elements required to arrive at any conclusion regarding his use of deadly force.  The shooters evidence would have to be heavily scrutinized and measured against other investigative findings to conduct a proper assessment.

Q If the initial burst of three (3) shots were justified, was the second burst of six (6) shots justified?

  • If the initial three (3) shot burst were deemed to be justified, that justification doesn’t automatically extend to the subsequent six (6) shots that were fired.  The justification for the additional shots will also be scrutinized and must meet the same criteria used to assess the initial shots fired.  Once again, the Officers mindset, interpretation and articulation of the threat will be essential elements required to arrive at any conclusion regarding the secondary use of deadly force.
  • I expect questions regarding whether or not a “delivery system” existed after the first three shots were fired will be a live issue in this investigation.

Q) Why was the taser discharged?

  • It seems logical that the taser was discharged to further incapacitate Yatim to facilitate a safe approach.  People shot by the Police do not simply drop dead, a popular misconception popularized by Hollywood movies.  It’s quite possible that Yatim continued to brandish the weapon and move about when the Police approached him.  Despite being shot multiple times, until disarmed, Yatim would have still been perceived to be a threat to the Officers.

Q) Was the use of the taser justified?

  • If Yatim remained in possession of the knife the use of the taser could be justified.  Ultimately, the officer who discharged the taser will have to provide sufficient explanation to justify this use of force.

Q) Should the Police have used less than lethal force options?

  • When faced with a deadly threat, Police Officers are justified in responding with lethal force and are not required to attempt to use less than lethal force options.  Infact, in some cases, attempting to use less than lethal force options could be ill-advised and highly dangerous.  When facing a deadly threat, the use of these less than lethal options should only be used in conjunction with deadly force options and only when circumstances dictate their safe use.  Professional Police Officers trained in the use of force should be able to articulate and justify their use of force and why less lethal options were considered to be either inappropriate or ineffective.

Q) Would the deployment of a trained tactical team resulted in a different outcome?

  • The answer to this question is not relevant to the contact Officer who faced the deadly encounter.  The Officer was forced to deal with the threat until such time as a Tactical Team arrived on scene.  In this case, that didn’t happen.  The availability of the Tactical Team may be a question examined during the SIU or Police Investigations, or during an inquest or civil litigation.

Q) Was Yatim under the influence of drugs or alcohol?

  • Information in media reports suggest Yatim was a marihuana user.  Marihuana is not known to be a drug that induces violence in its users.  No information exists that indicates Yatim was under the influence of alcohol or illicit narcotics. The results of an autopsy will provide clarity regarding this issue.

Q) Was Yatim suffering from Mental Health issues?

  • There is no information available regarding mental health issues.  Interviews with family members, friends and medical practitioners may shed light on this question.
  • Yatim’s defiance, verbal aggression and taunts to armed Police Officers are suggestive of someone who may be experiencing suicidal thoughts.  “Suicide by Cop” or victim precipitated homicide, is a well documented method employed by people who are bent on self-destruction but lack the courage to take their own life.  A study completed by Sgt Rick Parent of the Delta Police Department found that 50% of Police involved shootings are victim precipitated events. (Source: Wikipedia – Suicide by Cop)

According to Toronto Police Association President Mike McCormack, the officer who fired the shots was a six-year veteran of the Police Service.  McCormack indicated the Officer was “devastated” by the incident and cautioned against rushing to judgement before the investigation is complete.  McCormack is quoted in the Globe & Mail as stating, “We have to remember that the video provides just a segment of the bigger picture here, I don’t think it’s too helpful to judge this based on what might be one slice of a bigger picture.”

The investigation into the Police Involved shooting death of Sammy Yatim needs to run its course before any conclusions are made.  The shooter and more than twenty-two (22) Police Officer witnesses will be interviewed by the Special Investigations Unit before their investigation will be concluded.  An investigation that will include civilian witness interviews and detailed video analysis.

The goal of the investigation will be to determine if the perceptions, actions and force used by the Officer in question were reasonable given the threat he faced.

I for one, will not rush to judgement.

RELATED LINK:

THE GLOBE & MAIL – “New Footage Reveals Further Details in Toronto Streetcar Shooting.”

70 Comments

  1. Mr Lowell…

    I think its great that you offer your opinion.

    Now that you have, I have to ask you, did you read the article?

    If you did, how is it you conclude I justified anything?

    You certainly have taken much liberty with the facts. Verbal commands did not work in the Yatim case and just so you know, most Police agencies have strict policies against firing warning shots. I can tell you with certainty that warning shots are strictly prohibited in Winnipeg Police policy.

    A swiss army knife may not be a weapon of mass destruction but it is capable of causing a person death or grievous bodily harm, which is a definition required to use deadly force in the criminal code of Canada.

    Not sure what Columbia or LA really have to do with anything.

    The decision in this case is drawing near and we will see what conclusions a jury comes to.

    Thanks again for your comments.

  2. James G Jewell, ready to justify any misconduct of police officers on duty. Simply shooting in the air a few times and telling the guy to get down on the ground while pointing the gun at him would of been enough. Even savage Mexican mafia pins are arrested this way when they have ak-47s in their hands, yet a swiss army knife is regarded as weapon of mass destruction when it suits overly aggressive cops. What would poor Mounties do if they had to police Colombia slums or LA for example.

  3. Why did only one policeman shoot? If Sammy Yatim had done something emergently threatening in the seconds before he was shot, other policemen would have shot too. It is possible that Constable Forcillo had decided to shoot Sammy Yatim for no reason other than that Yatim had refused to drop the knife, and there was an arbitrary deadline in Constable Forcillo’s mind beyond which he was willing to shoot Yatim if he hadn’t obeyed Forcillo’s command. Imagine Constable Forcillo’s surprise to learn that shooting people for nonsensical reasons is illegal, even if you’re a policeman.

    I assume, Mr. Jewell, that you have spoken to police officers about this case. Have any of them told you that they would have shot Sammy Yatim? Even one? I’ll bet that, in the seconds after Constable Forcillo shot Sammy Yatim, most of the officers there thought, why did he do that?

  4. Twenty policeman had a small teenager with only a jackknife cornered, so that he had no chance of escape, and they couldn’t be reasonably expected to come up with a strategy to take him alive. That’s your position and it is ludicrous. If Constable Forcillo hadn’t shot him he would have eventually surrendered. He almost certainly wouldn’t have charged out of the streetcar and tried to knife a policeman. Even if he had, he could have been instantly swarmed from all sides, and no one would have been seriously injured.

    You’re pretending to be stupid. You know just as well as I do why they tasered him after shooting him. It was so that they could claim after the fact that they had tried a nonlethal means of capture. They knew they had used excessive force, and were trying to establish an alibi.

    Also presumption of innocence is a judicial protocol that applies only to courtrooms. You don’t have to grant Constable Forcillo any presumption of innocence, and neither do I. I don’t appreciate you trying to shut me up with that one.

  5. Ian,

    You’ve taken great liberty with my analysis of this case.

    “Your defense of Constable Forcillo is, knives are sharp as if that is some sort of excuse for a summary execution of an angry teenager who could have been disarmed by three policemen in riot gear.”

    Firstly, nowhere in my writing or replies to readers did I “defend” anyone. I articulated the dynamics of a deadly force encounter and identified some of the critical issues regarding the use of deadly force.

    I’m afraid your understanding of a deadly force encounter is fairly limited. The appropriate response to a subject armed with a knife is deadly force. If appropriate, deescalation techniques and less than lethal force options can be considered. I would never recommend that any number of Officers in “riot gear” try to disarm someone wielding an edged weapon. Thats a great way to get killed.

    Crown Attorneys across the Country prosecute people every day who are found not guilty of the crimes they are accused of, it happens all the time. It happens to Police Officers and the general public.

    Thats why people are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

    The Crown Attorneys also called it murder in the September 29, 2010 accidental shooting death of a drug dealer in Toronto by a TPS Tactical Team Officer. Ontario Court Justice Michael Block discharged the shooter of all charges indicating the shooting was nothing more than the Police reported it was, a tragic accident.

    You can read about the story here; http://thepoliceinsider.com/police-deadly-force-are-cops-hell-bent-on-killing-people/

    The other thing you fail to understand is that a video tape segment of a deadly force encounter only provides one piece of the puzzle. There are many things to consider when arriving at a fair and just decision.

    I prefer to reserve judgement until all the facts are known.

    You can go ahead and continue to play judge and jury.

    We can agree to disagree.

  6. Constable Forcillo’s judge and jury must grant him a presumption of innocence. You and I are under no such obligation. I can judge Constable Forcillo guilty based on the evidence I have seen, and there is no ethical constraint to that judgement, other than an exposure to a charge of libel should Constable Forcillo wish to sue me.

    Mr. Jewell, because Constable Forcillo shot Sammy Yatim dead in the company of other police officers, he cannot have understood that he was breaking the law. He must have been astonished to learn that he was being charged with murder. Does it not dismay you that a man so violent and so ignorant of the law could have been a police officer in the first place?

    Also, you keep insisting that, in withholding judgement, you are being fair and reasonable. But you and I and everybody else who cares to look is an eyewitness to the video of the killing of Sammy Yatim, which is very close to being an eyewitness to the actual killing. Your defense of Constable Forcillo is, knives are sharp, as if that is some sort of excuse for a summary execution of an angry teenager who could have been disarmed by three policemen in riot gear.

    Look: Constable Forcillo ordered Sammy Yatim to drop the knife and Mr. Yatim didn’t drop it. He may have taken a step towards Constable Focillo. So Constable Forcillo shot him to death. The Crown attorneys are calling that murder. You, unaccountably, disagree.

  7. This was the website where I first heard the tape of the officer repeating 5 times, and what that press claimed he said. In my post above, I explained what I actually here, and they are not even remotely similar. Website link with the recording
    http://news.nationalpost.com/2013/07/30/new-security-camera-footage-shows-the-moment-sammy-yatim-was-shot-by-toronto-police/

  8. You will still see my post a year ago in July when this first happened in Toronto (my lifetime home).
    James, human history has endless examples of the vigilantes of this world taking law into their hands. How many have died, judged by those who had no right to do so? How many were innocent, but only confirmed after their execution? Canada has many examples of this exact situation, where evidence later turned up after they served decades in prison, or had received the death penalty even when our legal procedure was followed to the letter. I thank God for these vital laws. There are many facts that the first news postings did not reveal, such as penis in hand, terrorizing the bus and ordering everyone to remain on, with knife threats.Only an autopsy will confirm if there was some bizarre drug interaction, and rightfully, this important evidence has remained private, waiting trial.The press often jumps on a good story, hoping to be the first to break “front page news”. But, as I wrote last July, I read the reports, and they provided a tape of what the officer spoke..repeating 5 times. They actually wrote the words they claimed the officer spoke, which further inflamed the public.But I listened with open mind to their exact tape, and heard distinctly a very different wording.Court will examine this. When this incident first hit the press, strangely no information about Sammy with penis in one hand and knfe in another, terrifying the ttc riders and screaming at them not to leave. To enflame an already tragic incident, some reporters provided the videos (none including what led to this emergency request for help.) Some also included a tape repeating the voice of the officer five times..and then inaccurately reported what the officer said.

    I posted this end of July.

    I have been a Torontonian my entire life, and have lived in one of the safest locations in Toronto for thirty years. Whenever I encounter such profoundly disturbing situations, I never take just one “news report” as truth, whole truth, and nothing but the truth. We have not yet been told everything behind this. There is one thing that seriously and honestly concerns me. I read the article which states “Audio made available to the National Post from video taken from a different angle showed this to be the moment when a male police officer appears to say: “If you take one step in this direction with that foot …[inaudible] die.” AND WHY AM I CONCERNED. I listened to this tape which is on the website I gave you above. It plays the officer’s voice over and over again. I listened with open mind, knowing that none of us know the whole picture, and that we have not yet been told how he came to be on the streetcar with the knife, and yet one reporter mentions people running out in fear. You quote the tape as saying: “If you take one step in this direction with that foot …[inaudible] die.”

    But I read…and listened repeatedly, and THAT IS NOT WHAT I HEAR. I CAN CLEARLY HEAR THE WORDS AT THE END..THEY DO NOT EVEN REMOTELY SAY…”DIE”. Test it for yourself. I HEAR THIS. “YOU TAKE ONE STEP IN THIS DIRECTION..(INAUDIBLE-THERE WILL-THERE’LL) HAVE TO BE AFFIRMATIVE ACTION” This situation is already a great tragedy for everyone involved. Be absolutely certain before you publish. In search of truth……Nola

  9. Why am I not outraged?

    Because I am not Constable Forcillo’s Judge and Jury….nor are you!

    Just like every accused person in our Country, Constable Forcillo has the right to be presumed innocent until such time as he’s proven guilty.

    That is the law in Canada and it applies to every Canadian citizen regardless of race, religion or employment status.

    You don’t have to like it but thats just the way it is!

  10. Time will tell? How much time you need? Constable Forcillo shot a wounded man to death. Are you suggesting that Constable Forcillo did not intend to kill Sammy Yatim? Are you suggesting that Constable Forcillo could have reasonably inferred that, once Mr. Yatim had been wounded, that he was still a danger to anyone? You cannot make these claims and therefore you must, if you’re going to keep on with this “let’s be frank and reasonable” song you’re singing, admit that Constable Forcillo killed a man for no justifiable reason. He murdered him.

    Constable Forcillo, a known if unconvicted murderer, is still on the Toronto police force. You were a policeman. Why are you not outraged that he is still allowed to practice that profession?

  11. James G Jewell

    You might want to do some research on Police Officer fatalities and edged weapon assaults.

    It’s difficult to explain the dynamics of an armed encounter to someone who has never experienced such a scenario. Most of these incidents take place in mere seconds and require split second decisions. Its all about action vs reaction and not so much about anger and fear.

    Most Police Officers, myself included, are called “rude names” on a daily basis. It doesn’t take long before an Officer becomes immune to it. The fact is, if you the disposition to call a Police Officer a rude name it’s likely you have many other issues that might result in you wearing a pair of handcuffs.

    I was always amazed how whenever I walked in a bar, the loudest mouthed asshole in the place was the guy who always had warrants outstanding for his arrest.

    Your suggestion that cops might shoot someone for calling them a name is way out there.

  12. James G Jewell

    Do you really think the video is capable of answering all of the questions that need to be asked in the Yatim shooting?

    Do you think a Judge or jury will be able to watch the video in isolation and render a decision regarding Forcillo’s guilt or innocence?

    That’s just not the way this is going to play out.

    You do raise a valid question regarding the justification for the use of deadly force after the first three shots were fired. I raised the same issue in my story;

    “Q If the initial burst of three (3) shots were justified, was the second burst of six (6) shots justified?

    If the initial three (3) shot burst were deemed to be justified, that justification doesn’t automatically extend to the subsequent six (6) shots that were fired. The justification for the additional shots will also be scrutinized and must meet the same criteria used to assess the initial shots fired. Once again, the Officers mindset, interpretation and articulation of the threat will be essential elements required to arrive at any conclusion regarding the secondary use of deadly force.

    I expect questions regarding whether or not a “delivery system” existed after the first three shots were fired will be a live issue in this investigation.”

    You are entitled to your opinion but I respectfully suggest you are arriving at a conclusion with access to only a very limited amount of information. These situations are never as black and white as people tend to think.

    Once the facts are known, it’s possible you may arrive at the same conclusion, time will tell.

  13. If I can make one more comment without exhausting your patience, Mr. Jewell, I find your pretense of reasoned suspension of judgment more than a little galling. There is a video, so we can see what happened. What happened is, James Forcillo, who was standing in a throng of police officers, shot Sammy Yatim six times after he had already been seriously wounded. You can pretend (just barely) that Constable Forcillo thought that Sammy Yatim was so dangerous that he had to be shot the first time, but there is no way that you can plausibly claim that the last six shots were anything other than a deliberate execution.

  14. But Mr. Jewel, the nine shots fired suggest that Constable Forcillo was acting either in panic or in anger. Anger would be the way to bet. I wouldn’t be all that scared of anyone with a knife if I was pointing a gun at him, and I had a score of my armed friends with me. I wouldn’t be scared of him at all if he was yards away, and lying on his back after I had shot him three times.

    I think Sammy Yatim was killed for calling Constable Forcillo a rude name. Call a policeman a rude name in any city in Canada and he might just arrest you. Call a policeman a rude name when you’ve given him a legally supportable excuse to shoot you, and he just might shoot you.

  15. And after taking 9 rounds and an idiotic tasering, and I use the word idiotic correctly.

  16. LOL not sharp shooters but that bad to shoot 9 times?

  17. Thank you Melanie…

    Appreciate your comments…

  18. Excellent article. I appreciate you taking the time to reply intelligently to unintelligent comments. Often when we read about a police shooting or a taser incident where the offender dies, the media reports one side of the story. They don’t take the time to report the repercussions as to what would happen if the officer had chosen to “shoot a warning shot”, or “use pepper spray” on a knife attack. Police agencies need to take time to educate the public more as to why other use of force options are not appropriate, so I thank you for responding and trying to educate those who don’t know.

  19. I’ve listened to the recording many times and suspect there will be much disagreement on what was said.

    Thank you for your comments.

  20. When this incident first hit the press, strangely no information about Sammy with penis in one hand and knfe in another, terrifying the ttc riders and screaming at them not to leave. To enflame an already tragic incident, some reporters provided the videos (none including what led to this emergency request for help.) Some also included a tape repeating the voice of the officer five times..and then inaccurately reported what the officer said.

    I posted this end of July.

    I have been a Torontonian my entire life, and have lived in one of the safest locations in Toronto for thirty years. Whenever I encounter such profoundly disturbing situations, I never take just one “news report” as truth, whole truth, and nothing but the truth. We have not yet been told everything behind this. There is one thing that seriously and honestly concerns me. I read the article which states “Audio made available to the National Post from video taken from a different angle showed this to be the moment when a male police officer appears to say: “If you take one step in this direction with that foot …[inaudible] die.” AND WHY AM I CONCERNED. I listened to this tape which is on the website I gave you above. It plays the officer’s voice over and over again. I listened with open mind, knowing that none of us know the whole picture, and that we have not yet been told how he came to be on the streetcar with the knife, and yet one reporter mentions people running out in fear. You quote the tape as saying: “If you take one step in this direction with that foot …[inaudible] die.”

    But I read…and listened repeatedly, and THAT IS NOT WHAT I HEAR. I CAN CLEARLY HEAR THE WORDS AT THE END..THEY DO NOT EVEN REMOTELY SAY…”DIE”. Test it for yourself. I HEAR THIS. “YOU TAKE ONE STEP IN THIS DIRECTION..(INAUDIBLE-THERE WILL-THERE’LL) HAVE TO BE AFFIRMATIVE ACTION” This situation is already a great tragedy for everyone involved. Be absolutely certain before you publish. In search of truth……Nola

  21. There has been no information released regarding whether the officer in question provided an account of the events to the SIU. Section 113(9) of the Ontario Police Services Act requires that all members of police services shall cooperate with the SIU in the conduct of investigations.

    In this case I can’t say for certain what level of cooperation the subject officer provided to the SIU.

    I understand your dilemma, how do you come to judgement without knowing how or if the involved officer can justify his use of force. As far as the criminal trial goes, the officer involved has every right, as does anyone else, to remain silent. The decision to testify on this case will be one that is made by the officer in consultation with his defense counsel. The video tape evidence presents potentially damaging evidence that begs for an explanation to satisfy questions regarding the use of excessive force.

    These cases are never as simple as they might seem.

    Thank you for your questions and comments.

  22. One of the missing pieces of information in this incident is the testimony of the police officer. I read in one of the papers that the officer under investigation even has the right to refuse testifying to the Special Investigations Unit if there are concerns about self-incrimination.
    Was there any any information released about whether the officer in this case testified to the SIU or “took the 5th”?
    Also, now that the case will go to a criminal trial at the end of September, will the officer be required to give testimony at the trial, or does he have the right to remain silent there also?
    I am just wondering if the officer’s side of the story will ever be made known because it is frustrating trying to remain “neutral” without all the facts even though more than a month has passed since the incident.

  23. Appreciate your comments very much, thank you!

  24. James,

    Thank-you for taking the time to go into such an insightful and relevant analysis of this tragic incident. I haven’t seen any other media articles or posts that really get into the issue (without blatant speculation or obviously biased views) and just deal with the facts (as few as they are).
    You have the patience of a Saint for even bothering to reply to some of the comments.

    Cheers,
    Mr.Black

  25. Patrick…

    First of all, I appreciate the fact you commented using a real name and not a pseudonym. It seems that anonymity provides people with the courage required to leave hostile, critical or hateful comments, none of which ever advance a conversation.

    In my opinion, your suggestion that the twenty other officers present were “contemptuous in their entirety” is somewhat off base.

    If you watch the video you will see there are three or four officers in the area of the front doors of the street car. Of these officers, one is the contact officer (Forcillo) and one is a back up officer. It is clear the contact officer (Forcillo) has his firearm drawn. Another officer can be seen at the side of the street car with his firearm drawn, he may be referred to as a containment officer whose primary function is to contain the threat.

    When I reviewed the event I found that all nine (9) shots were fired in approximately eleven (11) seconds, the first three were fired in rapid succession, followed by a six second pause and the final six shots.

    It seems unrealistic to think that other officers at the scene could have or even should have tried to intervene and stop Forcillo from firing his weapon. Scenes like this degenerate rapidly and are often chaotic. Other officers at the scene would have been performing functions in the area of the threat such as traffic control, pedestrian control and crime scene management.

    After the shots were fired you can still hear officers yelling “drop the weapon.” As I indicated in my story, people who are shot do not die instantly like in the movies. They still remain a threat and are often capable of using deadly force. The fact that no other officer was charged with any offence tells us that the SIU must have concluded the use of the taser was justified. Again, without the facts surrounding the deployment of the taser, we shouldn’t jump to any conclusions regarding its use.

    I fully disagree with your characterization that the officers present had a “gang mentality.” That is simply not true. The officers were at a scene of an out of control youth armed with a deadly weapon who was a threat to public safety and Police. These incidents are dangerous, chaotic and stressful. The other officers at the scene were there doing their jobs to the best of their abilities.

    At the end of the day, James Forcillo will have to try and convince a Judge or Jury that the force he used against Sammy Yatim was justified. If he can’t do that then he will be convicted of the charges against him.

    Finally, I don’t know who was in command of the scene or what role they may have played in the incident.

    Those facts will come out at trial.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  26. the other 20 or so police officers had the whole area contained, they let the striker , Forcillo, do his thing. And did not , any of them , try to stop him from doing so. The group or gang of officers are contemptious in their entirety. The entire group dared not do anything that would de escalate the confrontation because of their allegence to all and the one. I am interested in the taser being used after the killing. I understand it was a saergent , hardly an inexperianced recruit. This was clearly a gang mentality that might have played out differently with fewer officers being present… One more thing , who was in command of this area, why did he not have the presence that is necessary to look after his troops.

  27. No, you are absolutely correct.

    I raised the issue regarding the 21′ rule in response to several posts from people who minimized the danger an edged weapon presents to Police Officers.

    See my response to AT regarding this issue.

    Thanks for commenting….appreciate your opinion.

  28. James,
    I appreciate your objective analysis of the situation as tragic as it may be. Would you kindly clarify the 21 foot rule for me. My understanding is that it only applies in cases the officers gun is not already drawn. Like yourself, I am unwilling to rush to judgement yet as there are still too many unanswered questions.

  29. A few years ago I took a street survival course that featured a segment on edged weapons.

    You would be surprised, as I was, at how dangerous edged weapons can be to Law Enforcement and Corrections Officers. We were shown dozens of photographs of the deadly results of knife attacks. Even knives with very small blades can present a deadly threat.

    Thanks for commenting.

  30. Dixon,

    I think it is too early in the investigation to speculate on mental health and drug related issues.

    At some point toxicology reports will be known and provide answers to the question regarding whether or not Mr Yatim was under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the shooting.

    Meanwhile, interviews with family members and mental health professionals may provide answers regarding Mr Yatims mental health.

    We will have to wait and see.

    Thanks for commenting.

  31. The killing was absolutely not justified. I will no longer believe in this institution if the cop gets away with this murder
    It was a swiss army knife for god’s sake
    Gez!

  32. Dear James G Jewell,

    I agree with the cop’s decision to shoot down Yatin. But I have a few queries : 1. What is the root cause of the problem? Can any one do something to prevent these activities by teens in future?

    In my opinion Yatin was not properly taken cared off by his parents and there is possibility that he was suffering from some depression or conduct disorder on which even his doctor-mother may not have given any attention. There are many undiagnosed basic psychiatric illnesses which deviates focus of adolescents from studies and create a lot of adjustment issues with parents. Unfortunately these adolescents go and fall in to the hands of drug suppliers. They feed them and bring out new behavioral changes in them to become antisocial persons.

    My question is are we doing some thing to screen adolescents especially with learning disabilities and adjustment problems/ drug addiction for underlying mental illness ?
    and are we following up all of them who were detected ? and are we doing something to treat them by physicians properly?

    Another question is: Is there a process of investigation against the drug supplier at least in this case? Or every one is aware who is supplying these drugs and nobody is able to do anything about it because drug suppliers have influence in the authorities?

    It will be appreciated if you can give some information?

    Sincerely,
    Dixon

  33. I’m afraid you’re playing a little fast and loose with the facts.

    If you read my article you’ll see that I never offered any opinion regarding whether the force used was “lawful law enforcement” or not, rather, I identified and explored issues based on my experience. The point of the article was to encourage people, like you, to avoid rushing to judgement before all of the facts are known.

    As far as your characterization of the “closeted culture of the police force,” goes, your comments are so full of stereotypes, generalizations and mistruths they don’t merit further discussion.

    I do appreciate the fact that you read the story and shared your opinion, even though I may disagree with it.

  34. James G Jewell,

    If you can not make a distinction between pumping 9 bullets, then tasering dead body, and then handcuffing it, and a lawful law enforcement, then I must say, there is no hope for the rest of TPS.

    The closeted culture of police force, their total disangement from citizenry, low education, their cockiness and condencesion, their downtown funerals, culture of disrespect, lies, and sucking taxes in enormous salaries, benefits and pensions is disgusting in light of this execution style killing and many others.

  35. In scenarios like this, one officer takes the lead as the “contact officer” while others act in the role of back up. It’s not unusual for only one officer to shoot in these kinds of scenarios. In some situations, only one Officer may have a direct line of fire.

  36. Your two cents have value…thanks for sharing your thoughts…

  37. If acting in accordance with policy and mandatory yearly training, why did only one officer fire?

  38. Excellent article, cleared up a lot of doubts I had… Plus I think that the general public is reacting strongly because of the case that happened in Florida where a kid got shot and the guy walked. Anyway, I bet few of the guys calling the cops pigs have never used a gun, less pointed it at someone threatening them and others with a knife. Just my 2 cents.

  39. I’ll second that, thank you for commenting.

  40. I tend to generally agree that police often overreact in cases like these and then are later exonerated for their behavior. I do, however, want to commend the author of this article for his reasonable account of the events and his restrained and polite responses in the comments that follow. I feel that a respectful discussion of a controversial issue is much more helpful and educational than insulting dialogue.

  41. In contrast to you, I do not think law enforcement has the wisdom, cunning or tools necessary to deal with all situations. I think situations like this remind us of unfortunate outcomes and the value of human life including criminal ones. What I don’t like is the death of another human if I feel like there could be other alternatives. I can’t but put myself in the shoes of that cop and imagining 21 other train colleagues with me would not be able to take a police stick and stike him in unisson and remove the threat.

    Maybe I give people who go into the police force too much credit and should expect them to act the way you describe because they do not have the ability to manage a situation such as this in a more pacific manner. Maybe the investigation will reveal some factor like he was strapped with lethal bombs, that my sway my mind a little closer with some empathy for the cop. At the moment with the information I have, my empathy is not so close to your analysis. In fact I think a lot of basis of this analysis are problematic themselves but that is just one opinion.

    I think it’s great to see how minds like yours think, because in society there is a place for everyone. But unlike you I am not a gambler and I think it’s great people express themselves and I still think it could be the majority. Also You assume a lot of things I did not say. But at the end we will have to accept the rules of society until they evolve. Not so long ago slavery was lawful that did not make it morally right.

  42. I certainly appreciate and respect the concerns expressed by the people who read my story.

    I also believe it’s important that we can discuss issues like this in a respectful, meaningful way.

    I am keenly interested in the findings of the SIU investigation.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  43. Maybe the responses are so emotionally charged because the video shows pretty clearly how that man was effectively executed.

    If the cop had shot once, I would have been willing to give him the benefit of the doubt – he got scared, overreacted, whatever. While it may be conceivable that someone (with 6 years of experience as a policeman, I might add) sees a young man with a knife as a threat, in spite of the overwhelming balance of force (22 guns and body armors against one knife) in his favor, I simply cannot see how he still continues to see him as a threat after shooting him. To me, the conclusion is inescapable – he either lost it, or he simply took advantage of the rules and killed him in cold blood.

    Generally it makes sense to wait for an investigation before drawing conclusions, but sometimes the evidence is so striking, that you simply cannot ignore it.

    Anyway, I appreciate your patience and willingness to address all comments.

  44. What I’ve read in the majority of the posts are emotionally charged conclusions, many of which verbalize contempt and hostility towards Law Enforcement.

    Are you suggesting the rush to judgement is somehow appropriate because the vocal majority is expressing outrage?

    Or should we wait until the results of the investigation are shared with the public so that people can arrive at informed opinions.

    My analysis underlined the issues and did not express an opinion regarding whether or not I felt the use of force was justified.

    What I did suggest is I wouldn’t rush to judgement until all of the facts are known.

  45. I’m not familiar with the rules and regulations with the TPS but warning shots are strictly prohibited in the WPS, precisely for many of the reasons you suggest, the present unnecessary danger to anyone in the vicinity of the incident, public and Police.

    Police are trained to shoot at center mass, not to kill as you suggest and people armed with weapons who challenge armed Police Officers are often goal oriented people.

    That is the truth, like it or not.

  46. Call me crazy, but it looks to me like everyone posting on this site is actually outraged at what the cop did.

  47. Yeah, not even a warning shot, and the guy hadn’t even stepped out of the car. Shoot to kill, and keep shooting until there’s no chance that he’s left alive, because any breath he takes puts the Officers in imminent and mortal danger. What we, the public, probably fail to appreciate is that a warning shot might have unnecessarily jeopardized lives. Maybe the bullet would have ricocheted off something and hit one of the Officers in a vital area unprotected by their bulletproof vests.

    I suppose the whole thing doesn’t sound so bad when you sanitize it with technical terms, when shooting to kill becomes “aiming at center mass”, and the poor kid becomes a “goal oriented subject”. Call the whole thing “tragic” to top it off, and you can go back home and sleep at night.

  48. If you’re incapable of understanding the threat Mr Yatin posed to the Public and the Police Officers at the scene then we can agree to disagree.

    Leaving condescending retorts and name calling will not advance the conversation.

  49. The lost kid with the knife exposed himself on public transit and brandished a knife in a threatening manner.

    He presented himself as an irrational, dangerous subject.

    How would you expect Law Enforcement to deal with him other than using the tools of their trade. You might not like the end result but confronting Police with an edged weapon and refusing to put it down when ordered to do so is behaviour that comes with predictable consequences, being shot and killed is one such consequence.

    Contrary to your opinion, I’d be willing to bet the vast majority of citizens understand this concept and support Law Enforcement.

  50. When_the _revolution_comes

    Sort of the point, isn’t it James? If the police officer’s behaviour hadn’t culminated in the fatal shooting, the young man would have been afforded the right to be presumed innocent.

    But, a thug with a gun and a uniform executed him rather than afford him that right.

    Since when is a guy with a knife not a threat? Don’t be an ass. He was on a streetcar, shot from the street. Who did he pose a threat to.. the seat cushions? He wasn’t on the sidewalk when he was executed, he was executed by a thug with a gun and a badge who, if there was any justice at all in the land, would be facing the same potential punishment.

    But we know that would never happen even if we had the death penalty (I should clarify- one that isn’t at the whim of a some power tripping, itchy finger asshat in a uniform), don’t we police insider? The murderous thug who committed this action would never be prosecuted because his brothers, who have sworn to uphold the law, only meet their commitment when it doesn’t involve a former officer.

  51. Reading this briefly it show that legality and morality are 2 very different things. Unfortunately laws do not always reflect the morality of a society. It also clearly show that when you give power to someone who does not have the wisdom to use it is very dangerous. In this case it can make a group of cops more dangerous for society then some lost kid with a knife.

    It tells us how active we should be involved in society to make sure that the powers we give to authority figures are not more harm then good.

    This situation exposes some big flaw in what the cops are allowed to do in a lot of peoples opinion and there are chances it represents the majority. If you don’t agree with what this cop did please make sure you take action on this so corrective measures can be dictated. They are only allowed to do what we allow them to don’t forget.

  52. I prefer not to sit in judgement of people I have never met.

  53. I appreciate and respect your opinion…

    I have in no way indicated that I am “okay” with anything. What I have done is done some analysis based on over 26 years in Law Enforcement, which include 5 years on the ERU team or SWAT as it is commonly known.

    I agree it was a tragic incident and it’s a shame a young man died, but the truth is his behaviour initiated the entire unfortunate incident, we can’t lose sight of that.

    The only issue left is whether the Officer can justify the use of deadly force.

    I make no judgement in that regard, at least not until all of the facts are know.

  54. you sir are pretty much saying you are ok with the events and how they unfolded ,,,,i wish you no ill will but there was no reason to kill the kid ,,pepper spray ,taser ,smoke bombs ,,,no reason in the world that BOY needed to die

  55. sure he did ,,and he left all his anger and prejudice in his locker when he put his uniform on correct ,,,,

  56. I raised the 21 foot rule for you so that you might understand the dangers a suspect armed with a knife presents in a deadly force encounter.

    Even with a drawn firearm, a suspect armed with a knife presents a deadly threat to a Police Officer.

    Trained Officers know that when a suspect armed with a knife charges at you with intent to inflict harm, your life is in extreme danger. Even if shot, goal oriented suspects armed with a knife are capable of stabbing someone multiple times.

    I’ve researched the stories and done the drills.

  57. Not sure why you direct your hostility at someone who is trying to educate and share understanding of some of the dynamics involved in a deadly force encounter. I prefer a conversation as opposed to a confrontation which seems to be your preferred approach.

    I’m certainly not “hiding behind” technical jargon and have never suggested the shooting was justified.

    What I do suggest is that people, like you, don’t rush to judgement until a thorough investigation is completed and the findings shared with the Public.

    There was never a “small chance” of a Police Officer getting injured as you put it, the danger was real, serious and imminent, as all dynamic armed confrontations are.

  58. Oh, and by the way, the article written by Tueller concludes that you are in danger if the gun is in your holster, not if you’ve drawn it already, and you’re pointing it at the person with the knife:

    http://www.theppsc.org/Staff_Views/Tueller/How.Close.htm

    Let alone when you’ve got 22 other people with guns on your side.

  59. Right, so you weigh the small chance of a police officer getting injured against the certainty of killing the guy, and you make the decision to kill. You don’t decide to back up a bit (so the suspect cannot close the distance in 1.5 seconds), you don’t decide to have a few other policemen point the gun at him (after all, there were 22 of them around) and only shoot in case he rushes out, no, you decide to take his life, just in case.

    Maybe that’s what your manuals say, but that does not make it right, and all this technical jargon that you hide behind does not hide what actually happened.

  60. As I indicated in my story, some use of force experts will tell you the use of a lower level force option, like the taser, in a deadly force encounter can be a dangerous proposition.

    Not all subjects react to the taser in the same way, in fact, the taser can be completely ineffective when deployed at goal oriented people or people who are under the influence of drugs / alcohol or who suffer from some form of mental illness.

    In such an encounter, the ineffective deployment of a taser may effect an Officers reaction time and effect his/her ability to respond with a firearm or deadly force.

    In such a situation, the ineffective deployment of a taser could result in the Officer being killed or seriously injured.

    In the real world, the decision to use a lower force option could be a mistake that costs an Officer his or her life. The Police are not required to expose themselves to that kind of risk when dealing with an armed, aggressive subject.

  61. A knife is a deadly weapon capable of causing death or grievous bodily harm, that is not in dispute.

    A stone can also be a deadly weapon but has limitations regarding the delivery system.

    If a Police Officer knew a subject was highly trained in martial arts they may be justified in using deadly force against them in a deadly force encounter.

    Would you expect the officer to attempt hand to hand combat with such a person? Police don’t get paid to “fight fair” and are authorized to use a level of force higher than the force a subject uses against them. Police are trained to end physical confrontations quickly thus avoiding unnecessary injuries to themselves and the subject.

    What you probably don’t know is that an armed subject with a knife can close a distance of 21 feet in 1.5 seconds and can kill a Police Officer before they have a chance to react. You can do the research yourself, run a google search on the Tueller Drill.

    Only one officer discharged his firearm, not 22. And lastly, a bullet proof vest protects center mass and some vital organs. It doesn’t protect the neck area, lower abdomen, head, legs or arms where major arteries are located.

    I hope this provides you with some information to assist you with your understanding of a deadly force encounter.

  62. The guy was holding a knife not a firearm. Why taser him AFTER he was shot? The officer should have put his gun in hd holster and just used his taser in the first place. Trigger happy murderer in a uniform.

  63. According to the criteria you laid out, he could have been shot dead even if he had a stone in his hand. After all, a stone can be thrown, and cause grievous bodily harm to one of the officers, right? And what about no weapon? What if he’s trained in deadly martial arts techniques?

    Just because the rules allow you to kill, it doesn’t mean you’re less guilty when you do it unjustifiably. It’s disgusting, 22 policemen, all wearing bulletproof vests, feel they have to shoot a kid with a small knife, for fear of their lives. With no civilians around.

    Cowardice at its finest.

  64. You have confused apologist BS with informed analysis, but it would appear your hostility & loathing blinds your ability to digest logic. If your mind was a trifle bit more open you would see I conducted objective, detailed analysis and at no time tried to defend the officer. In fact, my analysis identifies issues that may be very difficult to explain.

    On another note, since when is a knife wielding, aggressive subject “not a threat to anyone.”

    The crimes the young man committed were on video and are not subject to debate.

    Had his behaviour not cumulated with a fatal shooting he would have been charged with a multitude of criminal offences and would have been afforded the right to be presumed innocent in the eyes of the law.

    The events on that street car were initiated and driven by Mr Yatin but are nonetheless tragic.

  65. When_the _revolution_comes

    It is this kind of murderous thuggery (most evident in the G8 fiasco, but constant regardless of that sad, shocking failure), that makes many of us not just fear the police, but actively loathe them and plan for how we should protect ourselves from this gang of uniformed criminals.

    What a crapload of disgusting, apologist bs. And he should be presumed innocent until proven guilty? Shame that the guy on the streetcar, who wasn’t a threat to anyone since he was still on the streetcar, was executed and not extended the same platitude.

  66. The difference is, the officer in question discharged his firearm in accordance with his employment.

    If he is charged with a criminal offence his name will be published, until then, just like everyone else in this Country, he is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

  67. This is a common sentiment in the public…the Police should shoot suspects in the arms, legs or shoulders. Unfortunately, Patrol Officers using hand guns are not snipers or sharp shooters capable of that kind of high stress precision shooting. Patrol Officers are trained to shoot for center mass because it offers the largest target.

    Not sure I need to address the remainder of your comments.

  68. the sign of the us against them mentality the police have is that if i am arrested and charged my name hits the paper with all the info the public is deemed to need ,,,i want to know the officers name that pumped 9 bullits into a kid with a knife

  69. that is bullshit ,the cops shot the guy 9 times ,,1 in the leg would have stopped him or one in the stomach one in the shoulder ,,not nine in the chest !!! it is murder and the cop with be promoted for it i am sure ,,they drive drunk ,beat their wives ,kick the shit out of guy at banquet halls,drive like madmen ,,nothing ever happens and the public knows it

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