Sammy Yatim’s mother was concerned her son “wasn’t on the right path” in the months before his death on a Toronto streetcar early Saturday morning, according to a cousin who says he was with Mr. Yatim’s mother in Montreal when she learned her 18-year-old son had been shot.
Eiad Yacoub said Mr. Yatim’s mother, Sahar Bahadi, has been in Canada for months making plans to move from war-torn Syria to be with her daughter, 16-year-old Sarah, and her son, who she believed was having “trouble” at home with his father and with staying on track with his studies.
“She saw that Sammy wasn’t in the best state,” said Mr. Yacoub, a 22-year-old computer repair technician. “She really wanted to help her child.”
Mr. Yatim's funeral will take place Thursday at 11 a.m. ET.
Other than releasing a statement on Tuesday, Mr. Yatim’s immediate family has been mostly mum about the young man, whose death has sparked fierce debate on police use of force ever since he was shot holding a knife alone on a streetcar. But a picture is emerging of a young man bound for George Brown College who had a tight-knit group of friends, but was also missing life in Syria – his mother and his childhood friends, especially – since moving in with his father, Nabil, in Toronto five years ago.
According to a woman who opened a room in her apartment to Mr. Yatim and a friend two weeks ago, after he left his father’s home amid what has been described as “trouble” and “disagreements,” Mr. Yatim was recently “down” on his luck. “He didn’t have to go the way he did,” said Nonie Wall, 49.
On Wednesday, Ontario’s government watchdog said it will examine the guidelines given to the province’s police forces for de-escalating confrontations, adding to the probes already launched by the Special Investigations Unit and Toronto Police. It has also emerged that the officer involved in the streetcar shooting, Constable James Forcillo, called for a taser before opening fire and shooting nine bullets.
Mr. Yacoub said Mr. Yatim had difficulty adjusting to life in Canada, mostly in making new friends, improving his English and overcoming the shock of life in a country so different from the one he left. He said his cousin was curious and had a zest for life, staring at the stars in amazement in a Montreal park last summer, for example, but also that he drank and sometimes smoked marijuana, which concerned his mother.
Ms. Bahadi had been staying at Mr. Yacoub’s family’s Montreal home on-and-off for months as she tried to sort out her plans for life in Canada, and was there when she learned of her son’s death, Mr. Yacoub said. He said she immediately expressed a sense “that she could’ve done something” to prevent it – to stave off whatever had compelled her son to brandish a knife.
“She was crying his name, crying all the things she was feeling – that she was responsible, ‘I shouldn’t have sent him to his father. I should’ve been there. I knew he had trouble,’” Mr. Yacoub said.
During a visitation at Highland Funeral Home on Wednesday night, Ms. Bahadi sat next to her son stroking his face as a song filled the room with lyrics about a young boy with a three-inch knife: “Oh Lord, what have we done? A young boy whose life has just begun. Oh Lord, what have we done to our son?”