A Toronto police officer has been charged with second-degree murder in the death of Sammy Yatim, the 18-year-old shot and killed in a streetcar last month.
A statement issued Monday from Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit — the province's police watchdog — says the actions of Const. James Forcillo in the downtown Toronto incident this summer justify a charge of second-degree murder.
Forcillo, the officer who fired the shots, had been suspended from duty during the investigation.
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Yatim was on a streetcar stopped on Dundas Street West, near Bellwoods Avenue, when he was shot dead in the early minutes of July 27.
Witnesses have said that Yatim was holding a knife while inside the empty streetcar.
Nine shots can be heard on cellphone videos that captured the incident, following shouts for Yatim to drop a knife.
The final six shots appear to come after he had already fallen to the floor of the streetcar.
The shooting was recorded on video by several sources and viewed more than a million times on YouTube, galvanizing public anger and leading to a street protest that drew hundreds of people to the site of the shooting.
In addition to the SIU investigation, Toronto police Chief Bill Blair has said retired justice Dennis O'Connor will lead a separate review of police procedures, use of force and police response to emotionally disturbed people in the wake of Yatim's death.
Ontario ombudsman André Marin has also launched an investigation that will probe what kind of direction the provincial government provides to police for defusing conflict situations.
The Toronto Police Association has urged the public not to jump to conclusions in the case, and told CBC News it is disappointed but not surprised by the charges against Forcillo.
Family to release statement
Shortly after news of the charges broke, Yatim's sister tweeted, "The SIU charged the cop with 2nd degree murder!!! Good morning JUSTICE."
The family is refusing requests for interviews, but is expected to release a statement to the media by 4 p.m. ET Monday.
Earlier in the afternoon, Joseph Nazar, a friend of the Yatim family, said that he viewed the charge against Forcillo as a "first step" in the judicial process that is still unfolding.
Nazar said that Yatim's death was unnecessary. The shooting cut short the teenager's opportunity to live the Canadian dream, he said.
Forcillo has spent six years as a member of Toronto's police force, splitting that time as both as a uniformed constable and at court services at Old City Hall.
The SIU statement said Forcillo will surrender Tuesday, when he is also due to appear in court. The SIU statement said the location of the arrest won't be disclosed because Forcillo has been the subject of threats.
With files from The Canadian Press
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