TORONTO – A Toronto police officer facing a rare murder charge in the shooting death of a young man on a streetcar is free on $510,000 bail after spending just hours in custody.
Const. James Forcillo, 30, surrendered himself to authorities Tuesday morning on an arrest warrant that was issued the day before in the death of 18-year-old Sammy Yatim.
Yatim was shot multiple times and Tasered on an empty streetcar last month following shouts for him to drop a knife, which can be heard on video that captured the shooting.
Forcillo showed no discernable reaction when he appeared in court in the morning on a procedural first appearance and in the afternoon when he and his lawyers attended the bail hearing.
Superior Court Justice Gary Trotter’s reasons for setting Forcillo free on bail are under a publication ban.
The conditions of his release show that his four sureties include his wife and her family and he must report to the Special Investigations Unit once a week.
Yatim’s family is scheduled to hold a news conference Wednesday to discuss the events surrounding the young man’s death.
Toronto Police Association President Mike McCormack— who attended Forcillo’s court appearance — said this has been a stressful time for the officer.
“He’s very upset and in shock, quite honestly,” McCormack said. “As I said, it’s been very trying on him and his family.”
Since the SIU’s inception in 1990, 10 other police officers have been charged with second-degree murder or manslaughter in Ontario, but only one was convicted, and that was overturned on appeal.
In a statement Monday, Yatim’s family said they are relieved by the charge, but hope the SIU will look into the actions of the supervising officers and other officers who were on scene “for their lack of intervention in this tragedy.”
“Over 20 uniformed police officers were present and no one stepped forward to stop the gun shots or offer any mediation,” the family wrote.
“Moving forward we expect complete transparency and accountability. We want to work now to ensure that Sammy’s blood wasn’t wasted and to prevent any other families from enduring such a tragedy.”
In addition to the SIU’s investigation, Toronto’s police chief 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.
Chief Bill Blair has said he understands the public has many questions about police conduct in Yatim’s case and has said O’Connor’s review will be “extraordinary” in its scope.
Ontario’s ombudsman has also launched an investigation, probing what kind of direction the provincial government provides to police for defusing conflict situations.
Andre Marin has said Yatim’s shooting raises the question of whether it’s time for Ontario to have consistent and uniform guidelines on how police should de-escalate situations before they lead to the use of force.
Forcillo’s next court appearance is Sept. 30, when he will return to provincial court for a judicial pre-trial, which is a case conference with a judge and the lawyers.