TORONTO – The abundantly available video evidence is as disturbing to listen to as it is to watch.
But you know it will be viewed by a lot people.
“You’re a f—ing pussy.” These are believed to be the final words of 18-year-old Sammy Yatim as he was shot from the gun of at least one Toronto Police officer.
“Drop the knife” may have been the very last words he heard before being shot to death.
These are just some of many revelations on a new video taken by downtown resident Markus Grupp, who was walking by when the incident occurred on Dundas St. W. and Grace St. just after midnight Saturday.
The Grupp film, and others, will be studied relentlessly by the SIU. They already have been analyzed by, it seems, everybody else.
They offer a lot.
And beg many questions too.
Perhaps the most compelling is why did this shooting occur so soon after police arrived on the scene?
Were there other ways to go?
“The shots were fired less than two minutes after the cops arrived,” said Grupp.
Why not a better attempt at negotiations? Why not wait longer? Was there an immediate threat?
The deceased’s uncle Jim Yatim tells the Toronto Sun his nephew had no known history of mental illness.
So why was there shooting instead of talking?
“There were also eight to 11 cops at the front door at one point,” said Grupp.
“Not sure of the threat the victim posed to the public.”
But Grupp did make this observation.
“The (several) ‘you’re a f—ing pussy’ taunts came shortly before the first three shots,” he said. “If public safety was a concern, then there were no officers focused on containing the scene and moving away bystanders until after the shooting.
“Little effort was made to secure the rear door.”
The actions, anxiousness — in some cases the lack of — is also noteworthy.
At “12:04 a.m. (Saturday) one or more Toronto Police officers fire three shots, then a pause, followed by another burst of six shots,” Grupp said. “I hear what I believe is a Taser fired. Shortly thereafter, one or two officers board the streetcar and one officer runs on the back.”
But it was a female officer, standing next to what is believed to be the shooting officer, that has caught the eye of many.
“A female officer stands beside the subject officer with her arms folded in front of her, with no weapon drawn and no sign of any concern for her safety,” notes crime specialist Ross McLean, a former Toronto copper. “At the five-second mark, the suspect appears to raise both his arms, in a surrender-type movement, then as another officer runs around the back of the streetcar he holds the knife up for him to see.”
The question is what was it the shooting officer, or perhaps officers, felt was the risk that other officers like the female did not seem to be concerned with?
Why was the area not more shut down with such a risk imminent?
“Several pedestrians and cyclists continue to pass through the scene from east to west,” said Grupp. “Several cars pass by the scene from west to east on Dundas.”
McLean notices two other interesting factors.
One is it appears the first three police bullets rang out while the suspect was standing. The next six when he appears to be down on the ground or on his knees.
“The final six shots, it appears the officer has now levelled the gun, as opposed to the angled up position of his arm previously, possibly indicating the final shots were fired at the suspect on the floor of the streetcar,” said McLean.
“Just 19 seconds later a police officer is seen running into the picture quickly carrying what appears to be a Taser in his hands, he moves to the first stair of the streetcar, and at 1:28 of the video, apparently deploys the Taser, 38 seconds after the final shot.
“The officer’s arm angle would appear to show he was deploying it on the suspect on the floor of the streetcar.”
Meanwhile, look at the Grupp video closely: You can see officers appear to be pulling the shooter officer away. Once the nine gunshots have stopped, “he is surrounded by officers who grab him and pull him back sharply (while) he appears to be pointing his gun at the suspect.” It’s a strange scene.
But thanks to the videos there is so much available for the public to see and so much evidence for the SIU to consider.
For public confidence and perception they, and Toronto Police brass and the association, have got to get this one right.
In the end, the SIU will decide whether a crime occurred in this police shooting. But either way regular citizens will decide if what went on there this weekend was a justified shooting or a fatal case of comply-or-die overkill.
Posted by Joe Warmington, Toronto Sun