Const. James Forcillo, the Toronto police officer who was suspended with pay after Sammy Yatim’s death, has been charged with second-degree murder by Ontario’s Special Investigations unit, according to a press release posted earlier this morning. A warrant for Forcillo’s arrest has been issued.
Yatim was shot and killed during a confrontation with police shortly after midnight on July 27. Witnesses have said that prior to being shot, Yatim had exposed himself and pulled a knife on fellow passengers aboard a Dundas streetcar. The 18-year-old’s death has become a rallying point among activists in the weeks since it happened, as protesters have accused Forcillo—and police officers generally—of using excessive force when dealing with suspects. A video of the incident appears to show police officers firing nine shots at Yatim and then tasering him.
The SIU’s investigation into Yatim’s death is one of several. The Toronto Police Service has brought in a retired Ontario associate chief justice to conduct an internal inquiry, and the Ontario Ombudsman has launched an independent investigation.
It’s unusual for the SIU to charge an on-duty police officer with manslaughter or murder. According to the Star, this is only the seventh time it’s happened in Toronto since 1990. The Star says the previous six officers were all acquitted, though one case remains under appeal.