Coroner rules against officer's 'suicide by cop' theory for Sammy Yatim inquest
A Toronto police officer's request to explore a theory that a distraught teen he shot was trying to die by "suicide by cop" has been rejected by a coroner overseeing an inquest into the youth's death.
In a ruling released Thursday, presiding officer David Cameron said there is no evidence for James Forcillo's argument that Sammy Yatim tried to cause his own death through an interaction with police.
"I find it mere conjecture that Mr. Yatim sought to end his own life and so orchestrated this confrontation with police to facilitate that wish," Cameron wrote.
The inquest into Yatim's death was set to begin in November but was derailed when Forcillo submitted a last-minute motion arguing the proceeding should consider the theory and examine evidence such as the teen's text messages and web browsing history in the months leading up to the shooting.
Forcillo shot Yatim in July 2013 while the 18-year-old was on an empty streetcar. The shooting set off a wave of public outrage after cell phone footage of what happened was posted online.
Yatim was hit by two separate volleys as he was standing alone while holding a small knife.
In 2016, a jury acquitted Forcillo of the more serious charge of second-degree murder related to the first round of shots – which, the court heard, killed the teen – but the officer was convicted of attempted murder related to the second volley, fired while Yatim was lying on his back.
Forcillo was sentenced to six and a half years behind bars and was granted full parole in 2020.
Before the inquest was to begin, Forcillo's lawyers argued that cell phone evidence gave rise to the possibility the teen played some role in bringing about his own death. They said the material should be considered to better understand the teen's state of mind.
Forcillo's lawyers said Yatim's phone showed he had done an online search more than six months before his death on "the easiest way to kill yourself" and that he visited a blog post on "how to commit suicide without feeling any pain."
Cameron rejected those arguments, saying the searches did not occur near the teen's death and it wasn't fully known if Yatim actually made the searches himself.
He also called evidence put forward by Forcillo "distracting" from the purpose of the inquest, in which a jury will examine the circumstances surrounding Yatim's death and may make recommendations aimed at preventing similar deaths.
Cameron said Yatim's behaviour during the police confrontation, such as his apparent surprise and anger at officers' arrival, indicate the teen did not want or seek out police involvement.
"Mr. Yatim's behaviour on the streetcar was confrontational, risky and showed bad decision-making. Medically, he presented as someone in crisis whose behaviour was consistent with the effect of the drugs found in his body ... possibly confounded by some mental health problems," Cameron wrote.
"There is nothing in his behaviour that could lead to reasonable inference, without further evidence, that Mr. Yatim was suicidal."
Cameron did rule, however, that it will be within the inquest's scope to examine Yatim's state of mind leading up to and during his confrontation with police.
The presiding coroner stressed he expects the inquest's parties to work collaboratively and he will not allow arguments intended to "admonish or vindicate anyone's past behaviour."
Forcillo's lawyer, Bryan Badali, said the officer brought forward his motion because it became clear at a late stage that some parties believed Yatim's state of mind was not relevant to the issues the inquest will consider.
"We are pleased that the coroner agreed that exploration of Mr. Yatim's state of mind at the time of the incident properly falls within the scope of the inquest," said Badali.
Lawyers for Yatim's family had argued Forcillo's motion was an abuse of process and put blame on the teen for his own death without evidence to support the suggestion that he was trying to die by suicide.
Lawyers for the Toronto police chief and police board also urged Cameron to toss the motion.
Ed Upenieks, the lawyer representing Yatim's father and sister, said the family hoped the decision would allow the inquest to move forward "in a focused and effective way."
Lawyer Asha James, who represents Yatim's mother Sahar Bahadi, said her client was also pleased with the decision.
"Dr. Bahadi is hopeful that the inquest will be rescheduled for the very near future," she wrote in a statement.
"We are coming up on the ten year anniversary of his death this summer and it's time that we have public review and scrutiny of the decisions made that day by members of the police service."
New dates for the inquest have yet to be announced.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 30, 2023.
Toronto Top Stories
CTVNews.ca Top Stories
‘We’re going to rebuild’: Indigenous communities look to recover from devastating wildfires
The East Prairie Métis Settlement is one of several Indigenous communities that were hard-hit by the recent wildfires in Alberta. As the wildfire season rages on, residents and community officials are looking among the ruins, pondering how they’ll recover from all the losses.
Blue Jays pitcher 'truly sorry' for sharing anti-LGBTQ2S+ video
Toronto Blue Jays relief pitcher Anthony Bass said he is 'truly sorry' for sharing a controversial anti-LGBTQ2S+ video on Instagram.
O'Toole says CSIS told him he was focus of Chinese misinformation, suppression effort
Conservative MP Erin O'Toole says Canada's spy agency has told him he was the target of Chinese interference intended to to discredit him and promote false narratives about his policies while party leader.
Alberta Premier Smith wants to 'reset' federal-provincial relationship while eyeing sovereignty act
Fresh off leading Alberta's United Conservative Party to a majority victory on Monday night, Premier Danielle Smith says she wants to 'reset' her relationship with the federal government, while readying to invoke the province's sovereignty act over emissions targets, if needed.
Low sexual satisfaction linked to memory decline later in life: study
Low sexual satisfaction in middle age could be linked to future memory decline, according to a new study.
New study finds Canadian women are more likely to adhere to social and democratic values than men
New data from the General Social Survey by Statistics Canada examined values across different Canadian demographics and found that Canadian women are more likely to closely adhere to most social and democratic values than Canadian men.
U.S. officer shoots at truck driver near N.B. border crossing
Traffic is back up and running through the border crossing between Woodstock, N.B., and Houlton, Maine, after a security scare Monday.
Human rights activist confirmed to be held in Chinese detention centre: family in Canada
Chinese authorities have confirmed that human rights activist Dong Guangping has been held in a Chinese detention centre since October of last year, according to the man's family in Canada.
Police identify engaged couple shot dead after dispute with landlord near Hamilton
A young couple shot and killed after a dispute with their landlord near Hamilton have been identified by police.
Lone tenant in a $400-a-month apartment could hold up major Montreal condo project
Carla White is the only remaining tenant in her building, which is slated to be demolished to make room for a 176-unit condo project. But in order to move forward, the developer must reach an agreement with White -- and she says she won't leave until she's provided with a home that offers the long-term stability she needs to ensure she won't end up back on the streets.
Funding cuts put Quebec summer camps in jeopardy this year: ACQ
Some Quebec children may not be able to participate in summer camps this year because of funding cuts to a federal program, says the Quebec Camps Association (ACQ). Almost all summer camps have waitlists because they need more funds to hire more staff, it said Tuesday.
Air Canada failing to provide full services in both official languages: report
Whether travelling by plane, train or automobile, francophone travellers are struggling to access services in their language, Canada's official languages commissioner said Tuesday. Raymond Theberge said it's an ongoing struggle that has gotten worse in the last decade, especially as people begin travelling again.
BREAKING | London police investigating 'serious' collision involving pedestrian at Victoria Hospital
An investigation is currently underway after a pedestrian was struck by a vehicle in the parking lot of London, Ont.’s Victoria Hospital on Tuesday night.
VIDEO | Communities in mourning as OPP officer and respected school bus driver killed in crash
Messages of support continue to come in following the death of an OPP officer and a school bus driver. Both were killed in a crash when their vehicles collided at Oxford Road 33 and Highway 59 northwest of Woodstock.
VIDEO | 'He did a buck 40 down the shoulder': Driver charged after speeding down shoulder of Highway 401
A 20-year-old driver from Petrolia is facing multiple offences after Elgin County OPP received multiple complaints of a vehicle speeding down the shoulder of Highway 401.
School bus driver killed in crash near Woodstock, Ont. remembered as 'a phenomenal man'
Elementary students are among those mourning the loss of a school bus driver killed in a double fatal crash near Woodstock, Ont.
'It’s devastating': Community in mourning after fatal crash in Oxford County
The Township of East-Zorra Tavistock and the surrounding community are in mourning after a fatal crash took the lives of a police officer and a bus driver.
Three new housing developments get the green light from Kitchener council
Kitchener council approved the construction of three new housing developments at a meeting Monday.
9 active wildfires in northeastern Ontario, highway closed again
The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) is reporting nine active wildfires in northeastern Ontario on Monday.
'Home on native land:' A new push to change O Canada's lyrics
Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie hopes the city will support calling on the federal government to change the lyrics of “O Canada.”
State of emergency in northern Ontario lakeside community due to rising water levels
Mitch and Donna Bujold moved to their Nellie Lake lot in 2018 for the lakefront view and access to the water, but in recent weeks, it seems the lake has been keen on accessing their property too.
Federal government aiming to dispose of half of its office buildings with hybrid work here to stay
The federal government is planning to offload up to half of its office buildings across the country, citing the rise in remote and hybrid work.
Shopify faces class action over severance offered to recently laid off staff
A class-action lawsuit alleges Shopify Inc. reneged on a deal it offered some employees who were laid off in a recent round of cuts.
Here are the worst roads in Ottawa, according to CAA
Despite efforts from the city of Ottawa to make repairs, Carling Avenue reigns supreme as the worst road in Ottawa, and one of the worst in Ontario.
Victim in 'critical condition' after violent downtown assault: Windsor police
Windsor police say a victim is in critical condition after he was chased and assaulted Saturday by a group of people downtown.
OPP officer from Lakeshore mourned by hockey community
Members of the Belle River hockey community say they are in ‘complete disbelief’ over the death of OPP officer with ties to the region.
‘The people have spoken’: Windsor-Essex voters opposed to privatized health care, according to OHC survey
Almost 99 per cent of voters in Windsor and Essex County are opposed to privatization of public hospitals, according to the Ontario Health Coalition (OHC) referendum results revealed Tuesday morning.
A two-vehicle crash in Barrie sends two to hospital
A crash on Mapleview Drive West in Barrie at Highway 27 sent two people to hospital this afternoon.
Ontario Health Coalition referendum results are in
A small but passionate group of individuals gathered at Sunnidale Park in Barrie Tuesday morning to call out the province’s plan to privatize public health services.
Collingwood purse snatcher sentenced to 6 years behind bars
A 34-year-old man who admitted to robbing a Collingwood senior in 2019 was sentenced to six years in jail on Tuesday.
'For God's sake, stop burning': N.S. premier bans all activity in forests, urges residents to abide by burn ban
Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston has banned all activity in forests as of Tuesday, and says the wildfire damage is “extensive” and “heartbreaking.”
Wildfire, potential ammonia leak forces mandatory evacuation order in Bedford, N.S.
A wildfire is burning in the Hammonds Plains-area near Bedford, N.S.
'There is nothing left': 151 Halifax-area homes destroyed by wildfire
A wildfire in northwest Halifax has destroyed more than 150 homes and about 50 other structures, the municipality’s executive director of public safety said Tuesday at a news conference.
Two Calgary ridings subject to automatic recounts: Elections Alberta
Calgary-Acadia and Calgary-Glenmore, both previously operated by the United Conservative Party are now painted in NDP orange by razor-thin margins.
Calgary's mayor congratulates returning provincial government, cautions over divisive rhetoric
Mayor Jyoti Gondek says she's looking forward to working with the newly elected UCP government on Calgary's priorities, while also appealing to people to reflect on the often cruel tone of a tough campaign.
Merchandise from five-year-old's t-shirt business stolen along with family van
A little boy with a budding t-shirt business faced a major setback last week when the family mini-van was stolen outside of his northwest home.
Priest charged in alleged sexual assault of 8-year-old girl on Manitoba First Nation
Manitoba RCMP have arrested a priest from a First Nation community who is accused of sexually assaulting an 8-year-old girl, and believe there may be more victims.
Tornado warning downgraded in Manitoba region; severe thunderstorm warnings remain
Environment and Climate Change Canada has downgraded a tornado warning for the R.M. of Brokenhead to a severe thunderstorm warning, as several other regions are dealing with severe weather Tuesday afternoon.
Man fatally stabbed on Burrows Avenue; homicide unit investigating
A 22-year-old man has died following an early morning stabbing in Winnipeg on Tuesday.
Motorcyclist dies after Surrey crash, RCMP say
One person has died after a crash in Surrey Tuesday afternoon, according to authorities.
'Group of youth' suspected in arsons at Port Moody sports complex
Police in Port Moody are asking the public for help tracking down "a group of youth" they say deliberately set several fires on an artificial turf field in the city last week.
B.C care homes propped up by for-profit staffing agencies 'near breaking point'
The nurses providing care for some of British Columbia’s most vulnerable citizens are increasingly employed by for-profit staffing agencies, adding tremendous cost to operators and impacting seniors' quality of life and care.
NDP sweep of Edmonton confirmed; Madu out as minister with fall to Ip in southwest
The Alberta NDP swept the province's capital city for a second time during Monday's provincial election.
This MLA-elect is the first Black woman to be elected to the Alberta Legislature
On Monday, Rhiannon Hoyle was elected to the riding of Edmonton-South, making her the first Black woman elected to the Alberta Legislature.
What will it take to get a 3rd-party MLA in Alberta? Probably a breakup, consultant says
It's no surprise Alberta's election was a two-horse race, but the rate at which every other party stumbled out of the gate is something not seen in the province in more than 100 years.