TORONTO – Toronto Const. James Forcillo has been granted bail after being formally charged earlier Tuesday with second-degree murder in the shooting death of 18-year-old Sammy Yatim.
The officer was released on $510,000 bail put up by his wife and parents.
Forcillo was brought inside the courtroom in handcuffs, for the hearing which lasted about 15 minutes. He rubbed his eyes and forehead at times while he sat inside the prisoner’s box.
Prior to the hearing, a young man wearing a t-shirt with Yatim’s photo stood and gestured at Forcillo. The man was quickly scolded by a court officer but allowed to stay in the room.
The officer’s lawyer, Peter Brauti, said it’s rare for bail to be granted in murder cases, but this situation is unique.
“He’s somebody with no criminal record,” Brauti told reporters outside the courthouse. “He has an excellent policing background. He’s somebody who should be released.”
Forcillo said nothing as he left the courthouse following the hearing.
“He’s in a very sombre mood,” Brauti said. “Whether you’re right or whether you’re wrong when you’ve been involved in a loss of life, the gravity of it is incredible.”
On Monday, the Special Investigations Unit charged the officer with second-degree murder and issued a warrant for his arrest.
“The director of the Special Investigations Unit (SIU), Ian Scott, has reasonable grounds to believe that a Toronto Police Service (TPS) officer committed a criminal offence in relation to the shooting death of 18-year-old Sammy Adib Yatim in July of 2013,” a SIU news release said.
Forcillo surrendered Tuesday morning after arrangements were made through Brauti. He was then transported to Old City Hall.
Toronto police said he will remain suspended with pay throughout the court process.
Brauti said it’s not often that suspects facing a murder charge to be released so quickly, and credits the quiet summer court schedule for the quick process, adding that Forcillo was not given special treatment.
Meantime, he is urging the public not to judge to judge his client.
“There’s a lot of people that have rushed to judgment without all of the information,” he said. “The defence knows some of the information now, and it’s much different than what’s being reported, and I expect there’s even more information to come,” he said.
As Brauti addressed reporters, a passing driver shouted “Burn in hell, Forcillo!”
Sammy Yatim fatal shooting
Sammy Yatim died on July 27 after being shot multiple times and Tasered on an empty streetcar.
Nine shots can be heard on cellphone videos that captured the incident, following shouts for Yatim to drop a knife.
The final six shots appear to come after he had already fallen to the floor of the streetcar.
Listen to 680’s Momin Qureshi interview Mike McCormack, president of the Toronto Police Association, regarding the second-degree charge of Const. Forcillo.
Yatim family, police react to murder charge
Originally scheduled to address the media on Wednesday, a written media release sent out Tuesday night stated that the Yatim family had cancelled the press conference, and would not be making any further comments or doing any interviews.
“We know you wanted to speak to our family and we appreciate your patience. Please understand that this has struck our family to the core. While we understand your interest and concern for us, we are trying to heal and regain some sense of normalcy in our lives,” the statement read.
“While we know you have questions we simply do not have the energy right now to comment. We thank all those who have been supporting us and guiding us through this time and we ask that you please respect that we need to save what energy we have left right now in our fight for justice for Sammy.”
Family friend Joseph Nazar told 680News he spoke with Yatim’s mother shortly after the news of the charge was made public Monday morning.
“She was pleased that justice has taken place — the first stage of it. Secondary, of course, her son is never going to come back. The boy is dead. We have to accept that,” Nazar said.
“[The family is] very isolated, they’re very upset. The wife has had her [world] turn upside down, we have to remember that. The father lost a boy, the mother lost a son, and the sister lost a brother, so it’s not easy.”
He added that he supports the police, but the family continues to look for justice for Sammy.
“The action of one police officer does not indicate our feeling toward the police. We admire, we respect the police highly from the Chief down to every force,” he said.
“It was a good step and that’s a proper thing [that] the SIU did. Justice has prevailed, and the one who did the shooting, he will have his day in court like anybody else.”
Yatim’s sister took to Twitter Monday morning, Tweeting “The SIU charged the cop with 2nd degree murder!!! Good morning justice.”
Former Toronto Police officer and security expert Ross McLean told 680news this type of situation is an officer’s worst nightmare.
“[It's] the worst thing you want to have happen, and you just can’t help but for your mind to go there, so there’s no doubt that it’s absolutely devastating on the officer, and it’s going to have a lot of stress for him.”
McLean added that it will be a very difficult process for Forcillo and it may take years.
Earlier in August, Police Chief Bill Blair announced Justice Dennis O’Connor would be spearheading an independent review of the incident.
Official statement from the Yatim family:
The Yatim Family is relieved that the SIU is recommending that charges of second degree murder be laid against Constable James Forcillo. We have been waiting patiently and cooperating with the police investigation and want to hold accountable all those responsible for Sammy’s death.
Our family hopes that the SIU investigation will continue looking into the actions of the supervising police officer(s) and the other officers in attendance for their lack of intervention in this tragedy. Over 20 uniformed police officers were present and no one stepped forward to stop the gun shots or offer any mediation. Moving forward we expect complete transparency and accountability.
We want to work now to ensure that Sammy’s blood wasn’t wasted and to prevent any other families from enduring such a tragedy. We would like to thank the public again for their continued support throughout this trying time for us.
Our family has retained the Law Firm Lawrence Lawrence Stevenson (Lead Council will be Ed Upenieks). A press conference will be arranged and details of those arrangement to follow to the media. All Statements from the family will be made at that time.
In Peace, The Yatim Family.
The following is a statement from Chair Alok Mukherjee on behalf of the Toronto Police Services Board:
The Board notes that, today, the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) has caused a charge of second-degree murder to be laid against P.C. James Forcillo in relation to the death of Mr. Sammy Yatim. The Board recognizes that this is a difficult time for all parties involved.
The Board expects that all facts related to this matter will come to light during the court proceedings. As the matter is now before the courts, the Board will make no further comment.