Friends express disbelief over teen's death following police-involved shooting
Published Sunday, July 28, 2013 7:23PM EDT
Last Updated Monday, July 29, 2013 8:10AM EDT
Grieving friends of a teen who was killed during a police-involved shooting onboard a streetcar in downtown Toronto say they want answers as to why the 18-year-old is now dead.
The victim, identified as Sammy Yatim, was onboard a stopped 505 streetcar on Dundas Street near Grace Street just after midnight Friday when he was killed.
Witnesses say the incident began when Yatim was seen with a knife on the streetcar.
When police responded, Yatim was standing alone on the streetcar. Eyewitness accounts and footage captured at the scene indicate police shouted at Yatim to drop the knife. At least nine shots were fired, and Yatim was killed.
But those who gathered near his apartment Sunday to remember Yatim told CTV Toronto they can’t understand how the situation required such drastic police action.
Yatim was new to Canada, having arrived from Syria within the past five years. Friends said he collected knives, but wasn’t violent. Instead, they described him as polite, respectful, and often shy due to his English-language skills. The teen was planning to attend college this fall.
“He was such a lovable boy. Why did they have to do what they did to him?” a tearful Nonie Wall said.
Nathaniel Schifitto said he spoke with the teen over the phone just hours before the shooting.
He suggested Yatim may have been lost at the time of the incident, and trying to find the apartment he’d only just moved into a few days earlier.
Schifitto expressed disbelief over what transpired.
“One guy on an empty streetcar, 18 years old is going to take that much force, really?” he told CTV Toronto. “Something happened, something triggered him, but whether it was right or wrong, what was done to end it was with intent -- it was wrong.”
With Yatim’s mother on a trip to Syria, and his father on a business trip, friends say Yatim’s teenage sister was left to identify his body.
The Special Investigations Unit, which investigates incidents involving police where there has been a death, serious injury or allegations of sexual assault, is probing the incident.
Yatim’s friends are planning a protest against the police action. Another protest has already been planned by others for Monday evening in Trinity Bellwoods Park.
With a report from CTV Toronto's Scott Lightfoot