A Toronto police officer who shot a distraught teen on an empty streetcar is arguing that an inquest should examine whether the youth may have died by “suicide by cop.”
The lawyer for James Forcillo, who was convicted of attempted murder in Sammy Yatim’s death, is arguing that the inquest should look at the teen’s text messages and web browsing history in the months leading up to the shooting.
Lawyer Bryan Badali argues the evidence gives rise to the possibility that Yatim played some role in bringing about his own death and says the inquest jury should consider the material to better understand the teen’s state of mind.
The arguments are part of a motion brought by Forcillo that has delayed the start of the inquest into Yatim’s death.
Lawyers for Yatim’s family are asking for the motion to be dismissed, arguing it is an abuse of process and puts blame on the teen for his own death without evidence to support the suggestion that he died by “suicide by cop.”
Forcillo shot the 18-year-old multiple times in July 2013 while the teen was on an empty streetcar.
The shooting set off a wave of public outrage and protests after cell phone footage of what happened was posted online.
Forcillo had fired two separate volleys at Yatim as the teen was standing alone holding a small knife on the streetcar.
In 2016, a jury acquitted Forcillo of the more serious charge of second-degree murder related to the first round of shots – which, the court heard, killed the teen – but the officer was convicted of attempted murder related to the second volley, which was fired while Yatim was lying on his back.
Forcillo was also later convicted of perjury for claiming to be living with his ex-wife while on bail awaiting his appeal, when he had in fact moved in with his new fiancee.
He was sentenced to six and a half years behind bars and was granted full parole in 2020.
The inquest will examine the circumstances surrounding Yatim’s death and its jury may make recommendations aimed at preventing similar deaths in the future.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 23, 2022.