Friday, 5 August 2016

The actions of a killer cop

It is most unfortunate that there have been many instances both in the United States and in Canada where bad cops have wrongfully killed citizens and somehow managed to escape criminal liability. This article is about a bad Canadian cop who wrongfully tried to kill a citizen and who didn’t get away with it. It is indeed a very strange story. If you go into my blog and search for the original story of this cop’s wrongful deed, you will find it in the article I that published on the 29th of January of this year. The article is very detailed as I told my readers what really happened in that shooting.

In today’s article, I will give you a summary of what happened and then I will tell you what the trial judge had to say about that crime when he sentenced this bad cop to six years in prison. I will also give you information about the history of this bad cop while he served in the Toronto Police Force and finally, I will give you my own opinions about this ongoing problem of cops killing citizens and how that can be prevented.

Constable James Forcillo always wanted to be a police officer. His favorite high school courses were based on law and he pursued his law enforcement dream and finally he was hired by the Toronto Police Force. He had been a cop on that police force for 3 ½ years,

As time progressed, it became obvious to his superiors that he was a bad cop. There were complaints and discipline was applied to him but it didn’t really change this man’s conduct. A friend of mine who is a retired police officer with the Toronto Police Force told me that Forcillo should have been fired but he wasn’t and so he continued to misbehave. 

This was a failure on the part of the Toronto Police Force and its police union. For many years, if a cop was considered a bad cop, he would eventually be brought before a hearing and if convicted of being a bad cop; he would be dismissed from the Toronto Police Force.

But later, the police union whined and wept and said that if cops were dismissed from the police force, the remaining police officers would react negatively in their duties. The weak-kneed chief of police buckled at the implied threat and subsequently, bad cops including James Forcillo continued to remain on the police force despite their superior’s misgivings.

Sammy Yatim was born on November 5th, 1994, and grew up with his sister in a middle-class Christian family in Aleppo, Syria’s second city. Their father, Nabil, was a management consultant. The couple was divorced. Nabil Yatim moved to Canada in the late 1960s, while Bahadi (his divorced wife) stayed in Aleppo, where she practiced medicine. Sammy Yatim was sent to live with his father in Toronto in 2008. His sister later came to Toronto to live with their father also.

His former teacher, Megan Douglas, fondly remembers Sammy Yatim as the polite boy with a stunning smile in her Grade 9 and 10 math classes at Brébeuf College. He struggled with English but managed to keep up academically.

On July 27th of 2013, Sammy Yatim, who by then was an eighteen-year old teenager and thirty-year old Constable Forcillo’s lives took a decisive turn.

On that night in July 27th 2013, Yatim had taken the drug ecstasy before boarding a streetcar where he began showing his penis and soon after; he then pulled out a small switch blade knife and waved it in the air which then sparked a panicked mass exodus after the streetcar came to a stop. The driver also left the vehicle thereby leaving only the teenager by himself.
A 911 all was received by the Toronto Police Force that a teenager was waving a small knife at passengers in a streetcar.

If Yatim wanted to harm anyone, he would have attacked the passengers as they were fleeing the streetcar. I have no idea as to what prompted him to act in the manner in which he did but I have to presume that the ecstasy he had ingested was playing tricks on his mind. 

Ecstasy is a synthetic, psychoactive drug chemically similar to the stimulant methamphetamine and the hallucinogen mescaline.  It acts as both a stimulant and psychedelic that produces an energizing effect, as well as distortions in time and perception and enhanced enjoyment from tactile experiences. Ecstasy exerts its primary effects in the brain on neurons that use the chemical serotonin to communicate with other neurons. The serotonin system plays an important role in regulating mood, aggression, sexual activity, sleep, and sensitivity to pain.

It should be obvious that had this young man not ingested ecstasy, this otherwise ordinary teenager he would be alive today.

Constable Forcillo and other police officers arrived at the scene. Surveillance videos and audio played in court had shown Forcillo, who while on the scene yelled repeatedly at Yatim to drop his knife. Yatim refused and hurled expletives at Forcillo and other officers who gathered outside the immediate area of the streetcar.

Every day, police officers everywhere encounter people who pose a risk to the community and to themselves. It is paramount that officers have effective options to safely deal with these situations. When law enforcement officers face a critical situation that puts other people at risk of injury or death, what options do they have to diffuse the situation and save lives?

The law enforcement officers often use conducted-energy devices (CEDs) that are also known as electro-muscular-disruption devices or, more popularly, as stun guns to subdue hostile, fleeing, belligerent or potentially dangerous suspects. Unfortunately, Forcillo and the other officers on the scene at that particular moment didn’t have a CED with them. It came later when it was too late to effectively use it.

Forcillo and the other police officers on the Toronto Police Force were taught that they should try to calm suspects down if at all possible as an alternative to screaming at them to obey their orders. It is conceivable that had Forcillo used the calming effect on Yatim; what followed would never have happened to both Yatim and Forcillo.

Screaming at a suspect, especially if he is on drugs, serves no purpose at all. That is because it only excites the suspect and an excited suspect is an out of control suspect and that was what Yatim was at that particular moment he was being screamed at by Forcillo.  

Had Forcillo not been a bad cop and a stupid one at that, he would have tried to calm Yatim down instead of screaming orders at him. Forcillo’s screaming got him nothing in return but expletives from Yatim which should not be a surprise to anyone else other than that stupid cop. 

A knife-wielding suspect is likely to be shot by police in the United States and in Canada and yet in England is where most front line police officers do not carry firearms. In a 2004 survey, 82 percent of Britain's Police Federation members said that they did not want to be routinely armed on duty.

However, because of the current fears of terrorist acts being committed in  London, England, the London Police Force is putting more armed police officers on London’s streets but despite that, most of London’s 31,000 police officers will not be armed.

So being unarmed, they still deal with plenty of knife carrying suspects successfully but how do they do it?

The first thing that will be going through an officer’s mind when faced with this kind of incident is bringing it to a safe conclusion for all persons involved including the suspect. 

A simple appeal to the suspect to give him or herself up is often effective. The suspect will realize that he or she is out-numbered and may very well decide to call it a day. It does happen and so what could be better? No one is hurt since no deadly force is used.

In August 2016, in Toronto, there was a dramatic six hour negotiation between the police and a suspect who was armed with a knife while being on a bus. The matter was resolved quietly and no one was injured.

If Forcillo had a functioning brain, he could have used this method of getting Yatim to surrender. He could have even asked Yatim if he would like to talk to his parents. If the answer was in the affirmative, a cell phone could have been brought to the scene and given to Yatim.

Unfortunately, this stupid cop decided that his orders he screamed at Yatim would get immediate results like “NOW.” Children will follow his screaming orders but drug-induced suspects don’t hence, Yatim is dead and Forcillo is facing imprisonment.

The standoff between Forcillo and Yatim which lasted some 50 seconds had then escalated after Yatim took a few steps forward from where he had been standing at the top of the vehicle's front steps. Forcillo warned the teen that if he took another step forward he would be shot. He later testified that he believed Yatim was unafraid and ready to fight till the end.

Is this cop a psychiatrist? Does he read minds? Yatim didn’t tell him that he would fight to the end.  That was a presumption on Forcillo’s part that had no real validity to it.

Forcillo told the court his concerns about an imminent attack appeared founded when he saw the teenager jerk his knife towards him before moving forward towards the spot where he had been standing before. That is what happens when a stupid cop tells a suspect that he can’t step forward or else. It is a dare that a drugged suspect can’t ignore.

At that moment, Forcillo fired three bullets at Yatim, causing the teenager to crumple to the floor. Forcillo’s fear of being attacked by Yatim and subsequently shooting him was later considered justified. At that particular moment, he had done no wrong (other than make that stupid dare to a drugged suspect) and subsequently, he would not be in trouble.

Videos capturing the shooting of the teenager in the streetcar depicted that several officers did not pull out their guns or alternatively, chose not to fire their guns at Yatim.  I don’t know if this was because they were further away from Yatim that Forcillo was and as such, they did not fear for their lives.  

After firing three bullets in which the teenager dropped to the floor, six seconds later, Forcillo fired six more bullets at the prostate teenager. One of the six bullets missed Yatim. Between the two rounds being fired by Forcillo, eight of the bullets struck the teenager with the first three being later concluded as being fatal to Yatim.

Forcillo was initially charged with second-degree murder in the shooting death of Sammy Yatim. The first three shots were fatal and were later declared as being legitimate.  However, despite being shot by three fatal bullets, the teenager didn’t die right away. While he was lying on his belly dying on the floor in the streetcar, Forcillo fired six more bullets at the teenager in which five of them struck the dying young man. Another charge against Forcillo was later added, it being the attempted murder of Yatim.

It may seem odd that Forcillo should later be charged with attempting to kill the teenager by firing five more bullets into the dying teenager even though his first three bullets that entered Yatim’s body were fatal.

This is easy to explain. There was no way that Forcillo could have known that his first three bullets were fatal because just before he fired the second time in which five of his bullets struck the dying teenager, Yatim was still conscious. Because Forcillo saw Yatim grabbed the knife that had slipped from his hand when he fell to the floor, Forcillo fired the next five bullets into the conscious body of the teenager in an attempt to kill him. Hence the charge of attempted murder was legitimately applied to this stupid bad cop.
At his trial, Forcillo had pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder and attempted murder in the shooting of 18-year-old Sammy Yatim,

His lawyer argued that the Crown prosecutors were trying to criminalize a judgment call made by their client who was a first responder.

We all make judgement calls when we make decisions. Sometimes our judgment calls are wrong. That could be because of outright stupidity or simply mistaken views of a situation that we are in. In my opinion, Forcillo’s judgment call was a stupid one because his firing of his gun a second time was needless since Yatim was lying on his belly on the floor of the streetcar and as such, he was no risk to anyone.  

It is not unlike a cop speeding to a crime scene and causes a fatal accident on the way, despite the fact that he knows that other officers are already at the crime scene.    

Crown prosecutors had argued that Forcillo's actions were not necessary or reasonable, but Forcillo’s defence lawyer contended that his client’s actions were justified and carried out in self-defence.

If Yatim had got up from the floor and lunged at Forcillo with his knife in hand, then Forcillo’s firing of his gun the second time would have been legitimate because Forcillo would have been defending himself and/or others if they were in immediate danger. However, unknown to Forcillo at that moment, Yatim couldn’t have stood up since one of Forcillo’s initial bullets had severed his spine hence; he was lying on his belly and could not have lunged at Forcillo and the other officers.

He lied in his testimony when he told the jury that Yatim was a danger to him and others just before he fired his gun at him the second time. 

Forcillo was standing outside the streetcar as were other officers and he and they were in no danger at all of being attacked by the dying teenager who was lying on his belly in the streetcar that was several feet away. This means that at that particular moment, Forcillo had no legitimate reason to shoot the teenager a second time; hence the charge of attempted murder was laid against him of which he was later convicted by a jury.

Sometimes, trial judges are sympathetic with the people they are going to pass sentence on. Forcillo’s trial judge had no sympathy at all for Forcillo. I imagine he probably saw him as a gun-happy cop who had no qualms at all of extinguishing the life of a human being. That certainly is my opinion.

The disgraced police officer, wearing a dark suit, stood straight and stone-faced as he stood up in the courtroom to hear the judge’s sentence. Murmurs ran through the courtroom as Justice Edward Then delivered his sentence. Yatim’s parents looked at Forcillo then turned to one another in silence.

The judge spent almost 90 minutes dissecting the evidence that came to light during the trial, delivering a series of stinging rebukes to Forcillo’s conduct that July night three years ago.

The judge said that Forcillo’s behaviour constituted a fundamental failure to understand his duty to preserve all life, not just his own. He said that he didn’t believe Forcillo’s version of the event.

Mike McCormack, president of the Toronto police union, called the entire case tragic. He said to the press; “We go out there and do our professional job each and every day. This is a tragic day for the Forcillo family, the Yatim family and there will never be any good outcome from this. It’s tragic all around.”    
 The outrage over Yatim’s death prompted the city’s police chief to launch a review of officers’ use of force and their response to emotionally disturbed people.
 Just before the sentence was pronounced against Forcillo, his lawyer told Judge Then that that Forcillo should not be subjected to the mandatory minimum sentence of five years or more in prison for the attempted murder conviction. That statement went about as far as a snail attempting to crawl through thick heavy-duty liquid glue. The judge rejected the suggestion. But the judge also said that the Crown’s request that the officer spend between eight to 10 years behind bars was also “unreasonable.”
 Forcillo is a psychopath who has no empathy for others. He didn’t even have the decency to tell the members of Yatim’s family that he was sorry that their son died because of him shooting their son to death.
 Forcillo will be legally eligible for release after serving two thirds of that sentence. It is even possible he may be released earlier but if that happens, it will be a slap in the face of the family of Forcillo’s victim.
 While in prison, he will be in protective custody with the men who squeal on other inmates, rapists and child molesters. Even then, he may have a hard time serving his sentence with those men. After all, they aren’t cops who needlessly shot to death a suspect with five bullets while he was already dying and lying on his belly at the same time.  
 While in prison, his wife and children will no longer be supported by this man since his salary that he was receiving from the police department for the last three years while he was suspended with pay stopped on the day he was convicted. His family may have to apply for Welfare assistance. This twit not only screwed up his own life and the family of the victim he killed—he has now screwed up the lives his own family.
 He has been released on bail while waiting for his appeal to run its course which could take years before it is even heard. He better start finding a job meanwhile and if he is successful, he better put money aside to care for his family in case he does go to prison.  
 As to the grounds for his appeal, his new lawyer has filed a constitutional appeal, arguing the mandatory minimum sentence for attempted murder was never intended to apply to peace officers who legitimately carry a gun at the behest of the state in order to protect society.
 It has been a very long time since I have been apprised of such drivel. In my many years in the practice of criminal law, I have never even seen or heard of such nonsense going to an appeal court. 
 This would mean that any police officer who commits a crime while on duty will get a freebee and walk free if he claims that he has committed a crime for the protection of Society. 
 First of all, he wasn’t protecting Society at the moment he shot Yatim to death because Society wasn’t at risk at that precise moment.
 His prosecutors argued the mandatory minimum is meant to apply to everyone and that police officers shouldn’t get special treatment. They also argued that Forcillo’s case appears to be “among the most egregious examples of unjustified violence by a police officer in Canada.”  
 Does Forcillo and his lawyer really hope to overturn his conviction in the Ontario Court of Appeal? Did his lawyer do some research on this issue and discover the Regina v. Groot appeal that was heard by the Ontario Court of Appeal that gave its decision in September 1998? I will summarize that case for you.
 A prisoner was injured while in sole custody of a police officer who was then charged with assault causing bodily harm. The trial judge found that the accused unlawfully caused the prisoner's head to come into contact with the desk. Nevertheless, he acquitted the accused police officer of assault causing bodily harm because he was unable to determine whether the bodily harm from the blow was objectively foreseeable. The judge was also declined to enter a conviction on the lesser included offence of common assault because the foundation for such a conviction, i.e., a single impact event, was not advanced by the Crown as a theory of criminal liability at trial. He stated that it could not be said that the accused knew or ought to have known that a factual basis of liability involving a single impact event would be relied on to convict and that to convict him of common assault in the circumstances would be to impose liability upon him on a basis materially different from that relied on by the prosecution.
 The Crown appealed. Roy McMurtry who was at that time a justice in the Ontario Court of Appeal said in his ruling; In my view, the learned trial judge made all the findings of fact necessary to support a verdict of guilty of common assault. The Crown’s appeal was granted.
 What is so interesting in that particular case is that the police officer although employed to protect society (as all police officers are) he was still convicted of a criminal act while he as a police officer was on duty. In my respectful opinion, there is no constitutional relief available to Forcillo.
 That appeal court decision convinces me that Forcillo’s lawyer’s argument in his prepared appeal will be merely straws that he and his client hope will keep Forcillo afloat when in fact it will actually be his shroud as he sinks below the surface of that raging sea that is waiting for his forthcoming visit.
 I am in my eighties and I expect to be still alive when the ruling comes down from the Ontario Court of Appeal as I want to see if my prognosis of his appeal is correct. Having survived three heart attacks, I will probably be around then since I know the secret to living a long life. Only the good people die when they are young. My wife says that I am so bad, I will probably outlive God. However, she tends to exaggerate. I have told her a million times not to exaggerate. 

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