The Toronto police officer involved in the fatal shooting of a teenager on the weekend is Const. James Forcillo, a married six-year veteran of the force with a new baby at home, CTV News has learned.
CTV Toronto’s Tamara Cherry reported Tuesday that Forcillo is described as a family man who is well-regarded by his peers.
Forcillo has been suspended with pay as Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit probes the incident. While the police union describes the suspension as rare, police sources told CTV that it was not a punitive move. Rather, because many of Forcillo’s colleagues have been named as witnesses, there are concerns that allowing them to continue to work side-by-side might jeopardize the investigation.
The president of the Toronto Police Association, Mike McCormack, would not speak specifically about Forcillo on Tuesday evening. However, he offered his condolences to the victim’s family and said, “Our officer is devastated by these events, and it has had an impact on him and his family, as well.”
McCormack said while officers are well-trained in the use of force, they also face “a dynamic situation” when they have to react and make decisions based on the actions of others.
“You never quite know what reaction you’re going to get from an individual and as a police officer you have to make decision based on that,” McCormack told CTV News Channel.
Earlier, McCormack said he was surprised by the suspension.
McCormack told CTV's Canada AM that he planned to speak to Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair about the suspension, which he described as unprecedented.
"To my recollection, it's never happened before in an investigation," McCormack said. "(The officer) has not been accused or charged with any wrongdoing, so I just want to get to the bottom of it."
The fatal shooting of 18-year-old Sammy Yatim has sparked anger throughout the city.
In a video of the shooting captured by a bystander and posted online, Yatim can be seen standing at the front of the streetcar. The teen was armed with a small knife.
Three gunshots are heard, followed by six more gunshots about five seconds later. Then a Taser is deployed.
No other passengers were on the vehicle at the time of the shooting.
McCormack said the video, which has been widely circulated, only shows one side of the story.
"From my point of view, the video presents one perspective of a much broader event."
He said that officers are trained to use lethal force in situations where there's an immediate threat of grievous bodily harm.
"That's up to the officer to determine when that is," McCormack said.
Asked if it was appropriate for officers to use a Taser on Yatim's body after he had been shot down, McCormack said he couldn't speculate.
"Let's get the information and then we can make those judgments and have an understanding of exactly what happened on that streetcar."
YouTube videos of the shooting
Several surveillance and bystander videos have emerged of the streetcar shooting. This footage posted to YouTube shows the chaos after the shooting.
And this surveillance camera captured the incident from a different angle with enhanced audio. It appears that police are yelling at Yatim to drop the knife.