Sammy Yatim was a mentally ill man, high on ecstasy who pulled a knife on a Toronto streetcar. The streetcar was evacuated, the police were called and by the time they got there Yatim was alone on the bus.

When the police arrived on scene, they put in a call for a supervisor with a taser, but just as he arrived, Constable James Forcillo decided that Yatim was trying to charge off the bus and fired 3 times. Once Yatim was down, Forcillo fired 6 more shots claiming later that Yatim was trying to get back up.

The incident was recorded by witnesses with cellphones, and one video was uploaded to YouTube that night, generating great public outrage.

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Forcillo was charged with murder and attempted murder, but ultimately it was only the attempted murder charge that stuck. The reasoning for this was that it was determined that Constable Forcillo was justified in taking the first 3 shots to stop Yatim because he thought Yatim was lunging at him with the knife. It was one of the first 3 shots that killed him, only Forcillo didn’t know that. Once Yatim was down, Forcillo was not justified in continuing to fire to protect himself, so those shots constituted attempted murder.

I am not sure I buy the part about Forcillo being justified in the first 3 shots. An expert on non lethal force who testified at the trial suggested that Forcillo should have blocked the streetcar doors with a bike or something and waited for the supervisor.

I am not happy about the six year sentence. It is better than I expected, as the mandatory minimum for attempted murder is 5 years, and the defence was calling for the judge to make an exception and give 2 years house arrest, but I think the 8 to 10 years the Crown was calling for would have been better.