Police, columnists and Sammy Yatim’s family respond to the murder charge against officer James Forcillo

Police, columnists and Sammy Yatim’s family respond to the murder charge against officer James Forcillo

James Forcillo and Sammy Yatim (Images: Facebook)

Constable James Forcillo, the officer involved in the shooting death of 18-year-old Sammy Yatim, has been charged with second-degree murder. The news surprised reporters, activists and others following the case, in part because it’s just the third time a murder charge has been laid against an on-duty officer since Ontario launched its Special Investigations Unit to investigate police misconduct. Below, reactions from police, pundits and Yatim’s family on whether the charge is fair, and the chances of securing a conviction.

• Sammy’s younger sister Sarah Ann Yatim responded to the news by tweeting, “Good morning JUSTICE.” In a formal statement, the whole family expressed relief and urged the SIU to investigate the other police officers on the scene, none of whom “stepped forward to stop the gun shots or offer any mediation.”

• Toronto Police Association president Mike McCormack discounted the family’s stance ascribing it to “their observation from media reports, from YouTube, whatever, the Internet. That’s not really talking about what happened.” He told CBC that he found the charge “very disappointing” and called Forcillo “a casualty of this incident,” along with Yatim.

• The Globe and Mail’s editorial board deemed the second-degree charge “a fair response” given the five-second pause between the first three shots and the following six. The paper writes, “It is difficult to accept that a man on the ground, even one still clutching a knife after being shot three times, poses a mortal danger to officers standing at some distance away.” A former police officer interviewed by CBC’s The National made a similar argument, noting that the officers weren’t being forced into a split-second judgement.

• The National Post’s Christie Blatchford expressed concerns that the deafening public outcry is swaying authorities. Second-degree murder “may prove to be the proper charge,” she writes, but the pressure to appease the public and Yatim’s family isn’t “conducive to good decision-making.” A Toronto attorney who has worked on police shooting cases in the past agreed that the widely viewed cellphone videos likely played a significant role in the decision to charge Forcillo.

• Finally, several news outlets reminded readers that a charge is only a first step. According to the National Post, conviction of an on-duty police officer “is among the rarest of legal outcomes.”