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Monday, July 29, 2013

Toronto Police Coming Under Fire For Their Role In Death Of Teenager On TTC Street Car

Sammy Yatim: Family of dead teen stunned and baffled by police shooting

Toronto Star - Devastated family and friends are seeking answers after the 18-year-old was shot dead on a Dundas streetcar early Saturday.

A witness who was standing on Dundas describes what he saw after Toronto Police shot and killed a man in an altercation on a TTC streetcar at Dundas and Bellwoods early on Saturday morning.

Here is the enhanced Video of what took place on what most are calling by Trigger Happy Cops

The Toronto police shooting of an 18-year-old wielding a knife on an empty streetcar has left a family shattered and renewed questions about police procedure in “crisis” situations.
Sammy Yatim died of a gunshot wound in hospital after officers fired at least nine shots into the streetcar early Saturday. New witness video shows Yatim standing alone near the front of the TTC vehicle, brandishing a small knife, before police open fire.
His family and community are now demanding answers about why officers felt the lone teenager posed such a threat. A vigil will be held at the scene Monday evening to protest against police violence.
“We are in very, very difficult times,” said Yatim's father, Nabil, his eyes bloodshot. “He was an average kid, loved by his friends. Now you have totally different versions coming out.
The Special Investigation Unit is probing the shooting, which took place Saturday just after midnight on a Dundas streetcar near Grace St. Witnesses said Yatim held up a three-inch knife and ordered everyone off the car.
In the witness video, Yatim can be seen standing near the front of the car as police shout, “Drop your weapon!” and “Don't move!” When Yatim appears to move, officers fire three shots. After several seconds, officers fire six additional shots.
Officers can still be heard yelling, “Drop the knife!” after the shots are fired. About 20 seconds later, an officer climbs up the streetcar stairs and the sound of a Taser can be heard.
The teen was rushed to St. Michael's Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
As the SIU remained silent on Sunday, family and friends tried desperately to make sense of the death. His uncle, Mejad “Jim” Yatim, said his nephew had been adjusting to Canadian life after emigrating from Syria five years ago.
“Sammy seemed to be flourishing in Canada,” he wrote in an email to the Star. “I have to admit he tried to fit in with his friends. He wore hoodies and wore his pants lower than his father would stomach.”
Yatim's father has lived in Canada since 1968, but his wife and children lived in Syria until the parents divorced five years ago, according to the uncle. Sammy and his sister Sarah, now 16, moved to Toronto to live with their father.
“Sammy used to spend the summers with his mom in Syria until the situation became so dangerous,” he said.
But he said Yatim, who worked at a Sheppard Ave. McDonald's until about six months ago, had never shown signs of mental illness or violence. A bus driver once lodged a complaint against him for having an “attitude,” he said.
“Since when did it become a crime to be a teenager, I ask you?” he said. “And since when does a scrawny 110-pound-something teenager become a threat to a dozen or so brawny policemen, when he is isolated in an empty streetcar that they felt that they had no other choice but to use lethal force?”
Toronto Police are facing intense criticism for the shooting on social media, where outrage has exploded among friends and strangers alike.
A makeshift memorial has sprung up at the scene, and an “emergency vigil” will be held at Dundas St. and Bellwoods Ave. at 6:30 p.m. Monday, to “demand justice for Sammy and an end to police violence,” according to a Facebook event.
Councillor Janet Davis said Yatim's death raises serious questions about police procedures during crises. After the police shooting of 29-year-old Michael Eligon in her Beaches-East York ward last year, she lobbied for additional resources and training for police to deal with the mentally ill.
“It looks as though this young man was shot when he was alone in the streetcar and surrounded by police officers. Was there nothing else that could be done to save his life?” she asked.
On Sunday, Global TV spoke to a traveller on the streetcar stating that Yatim had been exposing himself; CTV reported Yatim had recently moved out of his father's home and into an apartment.
Yatim's father was away on business and returned to Toronto early Saturday morning after learning of his son's death. His mother is believed to still live in Syria.
On the quiet street where Yatim lived, near Sheppard Ave. and Highway 404, neighbours were gripped by grief. One resident burst into tears as she recalled how Yatim dutifully helped clean her yard.
Dorsa Bayrami, who met Yatim three years ago through a family friend, said his friends are in shock.
“He was the sweetest guy, very loving and kind-hearted. If he saw you down about something, he'd come to help you out, ask you why you're sad and make you laugh,” she said.
Yatim just graduated from Br├ębeuf College, an all-boy Catholic high school in North York, in June and intended to go to college in the fall, said Bayrami.
“He adjusted well in Canada,” she said. “If there's anyone causing harm, Sammy was always the one stopping it. Why would they shoot him?”
According to one eyewitness, before police arrived, the streetcar operator was standing behind the controls while Yatim sat at the front.
“We saw a gentleman in the front right seat, which I took to be the victim,” said witness Markus Grupp. “The operator was kind of hunched over the controls, standing ... All of a sudden, the operator jumps out and the guy sitting in front stands up, holding a knife against his chest.”
Within seconds, police surrounded the streetcar, and Grupp started shooting video on his iPhone. Soon thereafter he heard gunshots.
“It was almost surreal,” he said. “I've played it all in my head about 100 times today.”
TTC spokesperson Brad Ross said the streetcar's security video will not be released, as is policy.
With files from Nicholas Keung, Jacques Gallant, Mariana Ionova and Kim Magi
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