OTTAWA, Province of Ontario (AFP) – A Canadian policeman appeared in court Tuesday to face a second-degree murder charge in the fatal police shooting of a knife-wielding teenager on a Toronto streetcar last month.
Constable James Forcillo was taken into custody after a brief session, while his lawyer Peter Brauti said he hoped for a bail hearing later in the day.
Sammy Yatim, 18, was alone on a stopped, downtown streetcar at 12:30 am on July 27, 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, killing the young man of Syrian origin who arrived in Canada five years ago with his family.
Journalists and the public quickly questioned the decision to open fire, while shocked family and friends of the victim expressed anger against what they called a disproportionate police response.
The Special Investigations Unit, a provincial agency that probes civilian deaths involving police, laid the second-degree murder charge against Forcillo on Monday.
Yatim's family in a statement asked for a broader investigation.
"Over 20 uniformed police officers were present and no one stepped forward to stop the gun shots or offer any mediation. Moving forward we expect complete transparency and accountability," it read.
A six-year veteran police officer, Forcillo was shocked by the charges, police union president Mike McCormack told reporters outside the courthouse.
"He's very upset and in shock," McCormack said.
Asked about the impact of the accusations on overall police morale, he added: "We're disappointed. It's never good when we have one of our officers charged, especially with a charge like second degree murder."