One of Sammy Yatim’s closest friends tearfully called out for justice at the funeral for the 18-year-old who died after being shot by police on a streetcar early Saturday morning.
He “would never hurt anyone,” the friend said of Mr. Yatim on Thursday.
“This is not going to end before justice is served.”
More than 100 mourners filed into the chapel five days after the young man brandished a knife and was fired upon nine times by police and then tasered. The shooting, which was captured on surveillance and cellphone video, has sparked public outrage and allegations of excessive use of force by police. Toronto Constable James Forcillo is being investigated for his role in the shooting by the province’s Special Investigations Unit.
At the funeral, Mr. Yatim’s younger sister, Sarah Yatim, wore a black shirt, with the words “9 shots … ?” printed above a black-and-white photo of her brother.
Before the service began, one mourner wailed, “Oh my God! They must be punished.” Through sobs she cried out, “I have a son just like him.”
Mr. Yatim’s mother, Sahar Bahadi, sat in front of his coffin holding his hand, rocking back and forth, wearing a black head scarf.
Sarah Yatim started off a series of eulogies by reading a poem she wrote for her brother.
“If I only had five more minutes … I would have said I love you,” she said. In an unwavering voice, the 16-year-old said she would have watched him smile and told him it was okay to go. The verse ended with Ms. Yatim asking her brother to wait for her: “So wait for me Sammy. Don’t let me come alone. The day the angels come for me, please be there to bring me home.”
When she finished the poem she lightened the mood briefly when she told the gathering what Mr. Yatim would say if he were there. “He would say, ‘Put on some rap and change my damn clothes.’”
She returned to a sombre tone to say her family is not fighting against the police, “but against those who killed him.” She said even though he was shot at nine times and tasered, he wouldn’t want anyone to be angry. She said the family doesn’t wish the same pain they’re experiencing on the “man who killed my brother.”
Ms. Yatim was resolute in her final words, asking everyone to pull themselves together and “get started with action and make Sammy proud.”
A group of Mr. Yatim’s friends delivered a series of short eulogies. One friend shared how Mr. Yatim was a kind and gentle person. He “never said anything bad to anybody. If he had nothing good to say, he wouldn’t say it at all.”
Father Estephanos Issa presided over the funeral and described Mr. Yatim’s early life in Syria as one filled with music, art and friends. He described Mr. Yatim being carried on his friends’ shoulders as he was leaving Syria.
“He was very shy and very sweet and a Swiss knife would never represent such a sweet, nice and loved life,” Father Issa told the room of Mr. Yatim’s loved ones, referring to the knife that led to his demise.
Although Mr. Yatim had plans to further his education in Canada, and his father, Nabil Yatim, had dedicated the last few years to helping him pursue that path, he chose to leave home recently. Explaining that decision, Father Issa said, “he chose to discover his own world … his father submitted to his will out of love.”
Father Issa stressed that no one knows what happened when he was “unnecessarily killed in a very unjust way.” He went on to say that he has not heard “one word from the mouth of the parents or the sister that expresses rage or revenge against the police officer.”
“They surrender to the justice,” he said. “They do trust that Canada is a land of justice – is a land of peace.”
He said the family hopes the tragedy will bring about change for police officers. “Make the best of this tragedy. … Let life come from death,” he said.
Mr. Yatim’s body was carried out of the chapel as the song A Kiss to Build a Dream On played softly.
Family friend Joseph Nazar says Mr. Yatim’s parents have been devastated since their son’s death and are too grief-stricken to eat.
Speaking before the memorial, Mr. Nazar said people came from all over to express their sympathy at Wednesday’s visitation, including many who had never met Mr. Yatim.
“There’s a lot of questions unanswered obviously, but we know one thing. Sammy was taken away from us. Sammy never hurt anyone,” he said.
Constable Forcillo has been suspended with pay, but Mike McCormack, president of the Toronto Police Association, is urging the public not to jump to conclusions.
With a report from The Canadian Press
Editor's Note: The original version of this article contained imprecise information about the number of shots fired at Mr. Yatim and the number of shots that hit him. This version has been clarified.
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