An unidentified Toronto police officer has been suspended after he repeatedly shot an 18-year-old teenager wielding a knife on a city streetcar. The incident, which was captured on video and posted to YouTube, has sparked outrage by those who say the police overreacted.
Witnesses said that Sammy Yatim, whose family emigrated from Syria five years ago, pulled a knife on the streetcar just after midnight. After passengers emptied the vehicle, police called on Yatim to drop his weapon, then fired at him nine times in 13 seconds.
Toronto police chief Bill Blair said he had seen the video and understood why the shooting had upset so many people.
“I am aware of the very serious concerns the public has," Blair said.
I know that people are seeking answers as to what occurred, why it happened and if anything could have been done to prevent the tragic death of this young man. I am also seeking answers to these important questions.
Toronto Police Association President Mike McCormack said the suspended police officer felt "devastated" and "overwhelmed." McCormack urged the public not to jump to conclusions about the shooting.
Hundreds of people outraged by the shooting, including Yatim's mother and sister, protested in Toronto on Monday.
“The thing I care that, they shoot my kid, my son and I didn’t know why. I watched the video, he was standing with a knife, not with a [gun] but with a knife and I felt that he was very afraid, I felt it. I felt that he was very afraid,” Yatim's mother, Sahar Bahadi, told the Global News.
Ontario Ombudsman Andre Martin said he would look into the possibility of further investigation.
The government of Ontario...has the ability to issue guidelines and directions to police services on de-escalating conflict. We're going to have a discussion tomorrow to decide whether or not we should launch an investigation into whether or not those guidelines are sufficient.