Sammy Yatim thought people were trying to kill him, streetcar driver testifies
Diana Mehta, The Canadian Press
Published Monday, October 26, 2015 7:09AM EDT
Last Updated Monday, October 26, 2015 4:52PM EDT
TORONTO -- A teen who died in a hail of police gunfire on an empty Toronto streetcar told the vehicle's driver just minutes earlier that he thought people were trying to kill him, the trial of the officer charged in the shooting heard Monday.
Streetcar driver Chad Seymour was the last person to speak with Sammy Yatim before the 18-year-old was killed in a confrontation with Const. James Forcillo.
"I asked him 'is everything OK, what happened?' He replied 'everyone's trying to kill me,"' Seymour told the court. "He said 'do you have a phone?' I said 'I don't have a phone on me but I can get you a phone, who do you want to call?' He said, 'my dad."'
Not long after their calm conversation, Yatim was crumpled on the floor of the streetcar, dying of gunshot wounds.
Forcillo has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder and attempted murder in Yatim's death -- an incident that ignited public outrage.
Crown prosecutors have said they plan to prove that Forcillo's actions during the July 2013 incident weren't necessary or reasonable. Forcillo's lawyer has said his client's actions were justified and carried out in self-defence.
The jury has also heard that Yatim consumed the drug ecstasy before he boarded the streetcar.
Through questioning from a Crown prosecutor, Seymour recounted the night for the court.
He said he was driving the streetcar late on a Friday night when he heard a woman scream followed by someone saying "he has a knife."
The jury has seen surveillance videos from the streetcar that show Yatim sitting at the back of the vehicle and suddenly leaning forward to swing a small knife at a woman seated near him.
Seymour recalled that passengers rushed to the front of the streetcar, crushing into each other on the vehicle's front steps, asking him to open the doors.
He stopped the streetcar, opened the front and back doors and hit emergency buttons that told transit authorities there was an urgent situation on board, court heard.
"There was some pushing, some swearing and once the doors opened, everyone just kind of flooded out," Seymour said.
By that point, Seymour said he had turned around and seen Yatim walking forward with a knife in his right hand -- his arm extended out.
"He was muttering things," Seymour recalled. "He wasn't rushing at all."
As he watched Yatim advance, Seymour admitted he wanted to get off the streetcar along with the passengers, but found that he couldn't have done so without pushing some of them aside, court heard.
"I decided to just stay where I was, prepare myself for anything," he said, noting that Yatim hadn't noticed him and was yelling obscenities out the front doors. "I engaged him in conversation, I asked him what had happened."
After Yatim had expressed his concerns about people trying to kill him and asked for a phone, Seymour told the teen to have a seat and said he'd try to help him.
He noted that Yatim told him "this isn't a hostage situation."
Yatim moved further back into the streetcar and eventually sat down, court heard, and Seymour positioned himself at the top of the vehicle's steps.
"I decided to stay on the streetcar because I was engaging in conversation," Seymour said. "I knew that with him sitting down, with myself in danger, nobody else was in danger."
Moments later, a police car with lights flashing and sirens blaring turned onto the street, drawing a reaction from Yatim, Seymour said.
"He jumped out of his seat and yelled," Seymour said. "In that process I just jumped off the car."
Once he got to the sidewalk, Seymour turned around and saw Yatim had remained on the streetcar. At that point, he heard police repeatedly yell "drop the knife."
"I heard Sammy Yatim yell 'you pussy,"' Seymour recalled. "It was kind of like disbelief for me. I put my hands to my face, like why."
Seymour started walking along the sidewalk away from the streetcar but turned around just before Forcillo fired his first three shots, court heard.
"I kind of see Sammy's feet now, he dropped to the ground...that's when I decided to continue walking away," Seymour said. "Maybe 45 seconds later is when I heard the other shots fired."
The jury has been told that Forcillo fired at Yatim nine times, with eight bullets hitting the teen.