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Bill Blair on Sammy Yatim: “I Recognize That There is a Need for Answers”

Police chief expresses his condolences, but says he cannot answer any questions as the Special Investigation Unit looks into the shooting.

This morning Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair addressed Friday night’s shooting by police of an 18-year-old man, Sammy Yatim, after a confrontation with him as he pulled out a knife on the Dundas streetcar. The full video of Blair’s remarks is above; a transcript follows below…

Good morning ladies and gentlemen.

As you are all aware, late last Friday evening members of the Toronto Police Service responded to a radio call in the area of Dundas Street West and Bellwoods Avenue. Shortly thereafter a young man was killed.

The scene was secured and the Special Investigations Unit was immediately notified. The Special Investigations Unit has invoked their mandate to conduct an investigation and members of the Toronto Police Service will fully cooperate with the SIU in the conduct of their investigation.

I would like to begin my remarks by expressing my very sincere condolences to the family and friends of the young man that was killed. I have morning asked Deputy Chief Mike Federico to reach out to the family of the deceased to express our condolences and sympathy, and to offer whatever support that we are able to provide. As a father I can only imagine their terrible grief and their need for answers. We will commit to doing our best to ensure that those answers are provided.

I would also like to speak to some of the concerns that have been raised with respect to this incident. Like many members of the public I have viewed the video of this incident. I am aware of the very serious concerns that the public has. I know that people are seeking answers to what occurred, why it happened, and if anything could have been done to prevent the tragic death of this young man. I am also seeking answers to those important questions.

I want to assure all of the citizens of Toronto of our unwavering commitment to get the answers that they seek. The Special Investigations Unit has invoked its mandate. Their investigation must take priority over all other inquiries. I am prevented by law from disclosing any information related to the incident or the investigation. This regulation is aimed at maintaining the integrity of the investigation and I intend to uphold it. We will cooperate fully with the SIU investigation.

In addition the law states that the Chief of Police must cause an investigation to be conducted forthwith into this incident, subject to the SIU’s lead role in investigating the matter. The purpose of the Chief’s investigation is to review the policies, procedures, and training of the service, and to determine if those policies, procedures, and training were followed. A thorough investigation into the conduct of all members of the service involved in this incident will be conducted. A full report of my review, actions, and recommendations will be submitted to the Toronto Police Services Board within 30 days of being notified that the SIU has reported the results of their investigation to the attorney general. That too is the law.

I am very aware that the public is very concerned about this tragic event. They have every right to be concerned. I recognize that there is a need for answers and that the public quite rightfully expects that the matter will be thoroughly investigated. I want to assure you all that this will be done. The public also has a right to demand that the Toronto Police Service examine the conduct of its officers and to ensure that the training and procedures were both appropriate and followed. This will be done. Addressing the concerns of the public and the deceased young man’s family is our highest priority. We will act as quickly as circumstances and the law allow.

I regret that I am unable to answer any of your questions—the law is rather specific with respect to that as well—however a copy of my remarks will be available on the Service’s website.

Thank you all very much.

A vigil is planned for Sammy Yatim for Yonge-Dundas Square tonight at 5 p.m., to be followed by a march across Dundas Street to the site of the shooting.

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