Sammy Yatim was shot as a direct result of his own actions, and the response of Constable James Forcillo was at all times reasonable and lawful, the officer's lawyer argued on Tuesday.
When Mr. Yatim, an 18-year-old student, ignored a police command not to take a step forward on a Toronto streetcar, "he had little regard for his life or the life of others," Peter Brauti said to an Ontario Superior Court jury. "At the end of the day, he disobeyed the order and he got himself shot," the defence lawyer stated.
On the first day of what he said would be a two-day closing address, Mr. Brauti said Mr. Yatim wanted to attack police and engage in a fatal confrontation. He called the Crown's case against Constable Forcillo "weak" and "self-serving," saying the prosecution put forward several theories to back its contention that Mr. Yatim was in fact seeking help the night he caused a disturbance on a westbound Dundas streetcar. "The hope is to cloud the big picture and what common sense tells us from the evidence," Mr. Brauti said.
Constable Forcillo is charged with second-degree murder and attempted murder in the July, 2013, death of Mr. Yatim. Video images from onlookers and security cameras inside the streetcar show that the officer fired his weapon at Mr. Yatim nine times, hitting him with eight bullets. The first three shots were determined to be the cause of death. The attempted murder charge is related to the second volley of six shots, which came as the young man was writhing on the floor of the streetcar.
Mr. Yatim had the drug ecstasy in his system and had exposed himself on the streetcar and brandished a switchblade with a 10-centimetre-long blade, which caused passengers to flee the vehicle in west end Toronto. Constable Forcillo and other officers repeatedly ordered him to drop the knife. Mr. Yatim refused and mocked the officers, who were outside the streetcar about four metres from the high school student. After he took a step forward even though Constable Forcillo warned that he would shoot, the officer fired the first three shots, which took place about 50 seconds after he had arrived on the scene.
The prosecution is arguing the officer did not have reasonable grounds to use lethal force and should have tried first to de-escalate the situation. Mr. Brauti told the jury the Crown is trying to make a police judgment call a criminal offence. "Officers are not obligated to gamble with their lives," he said. Police are entitled to draw a "line in the sand" regarding when lethal force is reasonable, and it may differ among officers, depending on their experience, he explained.
By refusing to drop the knife, Mr. Yatim showed that he was planning an attack. "Although Mr. Yatim did not use these words, it was, 'Bring it on, I am not afraid,'" the defence lawyer said.
After the first three shots, which hit his heart and his spine and severely damaged his right arm, the young man was trying to "rearm" himself, Mr. Brauti said. The video evidence is unclear, he added, but Constable Forcillo saw the young man turn over and try to grip the knife again.
"We see this in action films. We all think it is over and the villain grabs the knife again and they shoot again. We don't see the shooter taken away in handcuffs," Mr. Brauti said.
The Crown is expected to begin its closing arguments on Thursday.