A Toronto police sergeant who tasered Sammy Yatim after he had been shot multiple times has had a disciplinary charge withdrawn, following mediation with the slain teen’s family.
Sergeant Dusan Pravica was charged with misconduct in 2017, after an investigation by Ontario’s Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD) concluded that he had used unnecessary force when he tasered the 18-year-old as he lay dying on a Toronto streetcar on July 27, 2013.
Minutes earlier, police had received a call that a man on a TTC streetcar had attacked a woman with a knife. The streetcar had stopped, the passengers had fled and ultimately several shots were fired.
By the time Sgt. Pravica arrived, Mr. Yatim had been shot eight times by Constable James Forcillo. Sgt. Pravica then discharged his taser.
The case sparked public outrage after video footage of the police shooting circulated on social media.
Constable Forcillo was convicted in 2016 of attempted murder in the case, and is now serving a six-year jail sentence.
At Constable Forcillo’s trial, Sgt. Pravica was called to testify. He said that he thought the young man was trying to sit up, and was therefore still a threat, when he tasered him.
“It left me with no choice but to use the taser,” Sgt. Pravica told the court. “I have no idea if he is playing possum. He is attempting to get up. He is not putting his hands up, saying I give up, the fun is over.”
During cross-examination, the prosecutor argued that the young man was not trying to attack him – he was dying.
“You work in a courtroom. I work in the streets,” Sgt. Pravica replied. “How could I know he was dying? He wasn't saying he was dying.”
His tribunal hearing was set to begin Tuesday. Instead, Sgt. Pravica’s lawyer Joanne Mulcahy confirmed just before 11 a.m. the complaint file was closed and the notice of hearing was withdrawn.
The matter was resolved through mediation with Nabil Yatim, Sammy’s father who had filed the initial complaint, she confirmed.
Ms. Mulcahy noted that her client had acted in good faith and had carried out his duties as a police officer, following Toronto Police policies and training.
Joseph Figliomeni, counsel for Nabil Yatim, told the tribunal that this Saturday will mark the sixth anniversary of the teen’s death.
“Resolving the OIPRD complaint against Sgt. Pravica marks a milestone for the Yatim family and their continuing efforts to refocus the police community’s attention on revising their procedures with a view to minimizing the excessive use of force,” he said.
He noted that the mediation process gave Nabil Yatim “the opportunity to meet and share his views with Sgt. Pravica in a dignified and respectful setting. Mr. Yatim is satisfied with the outcome of the mediation.”