Toronto officer who tasered Sammy Yatim under investigation

The Globe and Mail

A social media photo of Sammy Yatim.

(Facebook)

The officer who tasered a Toronto teenager after he was shot multiple times on a streetcar is under investigation and could face charges.

The tasering officer’s conduct falls under the scope of Chief Bill Blair’s legally mandated probe into the shooting death of Sammy Yatim, who was alone on the streetcar and wielding a knife when a police officer fired nine shots, eight of which reportedly struck him. After Mr. Yatim was wounded and lying on the floor, another officer tasered him, cellphone videos and surveillance footage of the July 27 incident show.

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Although the tasering officer is not the subject of a probe by the provincial Special Investigations Unit – which on Monday brought second-degree murder charges against Constable James Forcillo, the officer who shot at the 18-year-old – the officer’s conduct falls under the chief’s review.

On Aug. 12, Chief Blair announced he had tapped retired judge Dennis O’Connor to assist with the internal review, which includes both the incident probe and a forward-looking examination of use of force in dealing with emotionally disturbed people.

Police spokesman Mark Pugash said the review covers the conduct of every officer – except Constable Forcillo – involved in the Yatim shooting and said investigators will decide, based on the evidence gathered, whether there are grounds to pursue charges against anyone.

“Any officer who is the subject of this investigation could potentially face charges under the Police Services Act or the criminal law,” Mr. Pugash said. “Under the Police Services Act, the maximum penalty is dismissal and there’s a whole range of penalties scaling down from there.”

When asked whether the tasering officer has been suspended or remains on duty, Mr. Pugash said he can’t discuss the status of individual officers.

The SIU, which investigates civilian deaths and serious injuries involving police, has said it believes only one officer – Constable Forcillo – caused Mr. Yatim’s death and is therefore not investigating the tasering officer.

Civil rights lawyer Julian Falconer said it would be “fanciful” to suggest the tasering officer contributed to Mr. Yatim’s death, but added that the SIU’s decision against deeming the individual a “subject officer” should not be construed as endorsement of the officer’s conduct.

“It simply means there’s no realistic connection between [the officer’s actions] and the death,” Mr. Falconer said.

Constable Forcillo, a Toronto officer for six years and a married father of two, is out on bail and suspended with pay.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated Chief Blair's announcement occurred on August 14. This has been corrected.