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Canada demands answers after police shoot teen

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File picture shows a Toronto police van. Canadians demanded answers in the wake of a fatal police shooting of a knife-wielding teenager in Toronto that has sparked an uproar. (AFP/File)

Canadians demanded answers in the wake of a fatal police shooting of a knife-wielding teenager in Toronto that has sparked an uproar.

Sammy Yatim, 18, was alone on a stopped, downtown streetcar at 12:30 a.m. on Saturday, knife in hand, when police asked him multiple times to drop his weapon, according to witnesses and an amateur video posted on YouTube.

Nine shots were eventually fired, instantly killing the young man of Syrian origin, according to images filmed by a bystander and given to Canadian television.

According to the footage, police were about five meters (16 feet) from Yatim, who arrived in Canada five years ago with his family, when shots rang out.

Journalists and the public quickly questioned the decision to open fire, prompting Toronto's police chief to respond Monday.

"Like many members of the public I have viewed the videos of this incident," Police Chief Bill Blair said in a televised news conference, adding he was seeking answers to the same questions the public were asking.

City Councillor Janet Davis, known for advocating more police training, lamented the police response in an interview with the Toronto Star.

"It looks as though this young man was shot when he was alone in the streetcar and surrounded by police officers," she said. "Was there nothing else that could be done to save his life?"

Toronto Police spokesperson Tony Vella told AFP that the officer who fired on Yatim "has been suspended with pay, as the law requires."

Shocked family and friends of the victim expressed anger against what they called a disproportionate police response.

"Since when does a scrawny 110-pound-something teenager become a threat to a dozen or so brawny policemen... that they felt that they had no other choice but to use lethal force?" the teenager's uncle, Mejad "Jim" Yatim told the Toronto Star.

Facebook filled with goodbye messages and a farewell march was planned for Monday evening.