A preliminary inquiry has been set for next spring with “highly unusual speed” for a Toronto police officer charged in the shooting death of a teenager on a streetcar.
Constable James Forcillo was arrested Aug. 20 after a provincial Special Investigations Unit probe into the killing of Sammy Yatim, an 18-year-old who was alone on a streetcar and wielding a knife when police shot at him nine times and then tasered his wounded body. The SIU, which investigates civilian deaths and serious injuries involving police, believes only one officer – Constable Forcillo – caused Mr. Yatim’s death.
Constable Forcillo, a 30-year-old father who was released on bail and suspended with pay, didn’t appear in court Monday – as was expected – but was “anxious” in the lead-up to the judicial pre-trial convened to pin down a court schedule, according to his lawyer, Peter Brauti. The preliminary hearing, which is held to determine if there’s enough evidence to go to trial, will be held next spring – earlier in the process than is considered typical, Mr. Brauti said.
“It’s highly unusual,” he said. “I don’t know in many cases where it’s happened and certainly where somebody's been charged with murder, I don’t ever remember it happening. So it’s unusual, but the Crown and the defence are working hard together to make sure we move this thing forward and give the public confidence that it’s being dealt with appropriately.”
Last week, Mr. Brauti obtained some of the disclosure – evidence collected by police – from the Crown. “We just want to get the case going,” he said at the time. “[Constable Forcillo], like anybody else who would be in that situation, is anxious. He’s anxious for the matter to move forward.”
Cellphone videos and surveillance footage of the July 27 shooting have been widely circulated online, depicting several officers at the scene who either didn’t pull out a weapon or chose not to fire. Between two rounds of gunfire, at least one other officer holstered his gun, the footage shows. Controversy intensified again late last month, with the revelation that Mr. Yatim was struck by eight bullets, including at least five after he had fallen to the streetcar floor.
Crown prosecutor John Patton did not immediately respond to an interview request ahead of Monday’s court date.
With files from the Canadian Press