Tag Archives: James Forcillo

Killer Cop James Forcillo Appeals Conviction for Killing Sammy Yatim on Bogus “Suicide by Cop” Claim

The notion of “suicide by cop” is a phony construct devised as a cynical ruse to excuse killer cops and get them off the hook when they kill civilians. The problems with this notion have been detailed and analyzed repeatedly in this project. Applied after the fact and in a range of instances, including those in which the cop killed someone who posed no threat to police or the public, the excuse covers up killings which are in no way suicides. If a police officer chooses to shoot someone who is isolated from the public and poses no threat to anyone, that is not suicide. If the cop has a choice not to kill, that killing is not a suicide. Saying it is denies the dignity of the victim who has not chosen to  end their own life. It has been consciously ended for them. Without consent. Suicide by cop is in these cases purely propagandistic.

Yet killer cops, their departments, and police associations routinely trot this piece of copaganda out in diverse circumstances. Such is the case of Toronto Constable James Focillo who shot 18-year-old Sammy Yatim multiple times while the youth was all alone and readily contained on an inoperative and empty streetcar. Forcillo was convicted of attempted murder and sentenced to six years in prison for the 2013 killing of Yatim. Forcillo is now appealing his conviction on the basis that testimony arguing for “suicide by cop” in Yatim’s case was excluded from the trial. The testimony was provided from cop “criminologist” Rick Parent of Simon Fraser University who has built a tidy side career on justifying “suicide by cop” claims by his colleagues who kill.

The suicide by cop claim is ludicrous in this case. First, Yatim was alone and contained and posed no threat to the public or police. Secondly, Forcillo fired two distinct volleys of multiple shots at the youth, pausing before shooting the second volley even after the young man had fallen dead from the first round of shots. Clearly not a suicide. Forcillo had multiple opportunities not to shoot and to stop shooting. There is no way to construe that as a suicide on Yatim’s part.

Forcillo, who is currently on bail pending the appeal, is asking for a not guilty verdict or a new trial. Forcillo is asking the appeal court, which is set to hear his case this fall, to substitute a not-guilty verdict or order a new trial. The killer cop is also seeking a declaration that his mandatory minimum sentence for attempted murder is unconstitutional, and seeks a suspended sentence. Absent these outcomes he wants his sentence reduced to the minimum of five years.

Toronto Police Killing of Alex Wettlaufer: The One No One Worried About

When Toronto police pointed their guns at Alex Wettlaufer, the 21 year old was alone, isolated, and afraid. His family heard his fear as they spoke with him by phone moments before he was fatally shot by police.—Paramedics were called to the scene at 11:34 PM. Taken to Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, Alex Wettlaufer would die of his wounds in the early morning of March 14, 2016.

Police were reportedly responding to reports of two men fighting at the Leslie subway station in the late evening of March 13. How this would lead them to confront and kill Alex Wettlaufer in a park, Villaways Park, blocks away is not readily known.

What is known is that police claims about the confrontation, and the claim that Wettlaufer had a weapon, do not mesh with what family members heard over the phone as the young man plead with police to lower their weapons.

Wettlaufer was speaking with his family by phone moments before he was fatally shot by police. According to his mother, Wendy Wettlaufer: “He was crying, saying that he’s being surrounded. They kept telling him to put the weapon down, and he kept hollering telling them he didn’t have a weapon” (quoted in Wilson 2016)

According to his sister, Melissa Wettlaufer: “He told them it was just a phone, but they shot him anyway” (quoted in Gillis 2016). His loved ones heard him tell the police he only had a phone and try to get them to put their guns down.

Responding to police claims, the victim’s mother said: “Alex does not carry a gun, he’s never had a weapon, and he (doesn’t) own a weapon” (quoted in Wilson 2016).

His sister insisted that her brother had a lot to look forward to in life and would not have jeopardized it by challenging police. Not while he was waiting on word of his acceptance into the army, hoping to follow in the footsteps of his late father “Shorty.” In his sister Melissa’s words: “He is not really a fighter and he wouldn’t have turned around and ruined everything because he was going into the army” (quoted in Wilson 2016).

People who knew the young man agreed that they knew him as someone who worked hard at school. He was described as being serious in his approach. Alex Wettlaufer’s sister-in-law put it like this: “He was the one no one worried about” (quoted in Campbell 2016).

Wettlaufer’s brother noted that his younger sibling worked in a factory and had never had any run-ins with the law prior to being shot and killed by police. His brother described him as a quiet man who did not even use social media. He believed he had never touched a gun (Campbell 2016). According to his brother, who preferred not to be named: “He kept to himself and was never in trouble” (quoted in Campbell 2016).

A neighbor, Lilieth Rankine, who has known the Wettlaufer family for years, and lives in the same housing complex on Leslie north of Sheppard, remembers the victim fondly. In her view: “He’s a good kid, went to school, finished school. I don’t get it . . . What happened? Can you imagine what the community is going through?” (quoted in Gillis 2016).

Another family friend Diane Storm similarly remembered Alex Wettlaufer as focused with specific personal goals in life. In her words: “He was quiet, kept to himself … (he wanted) to get out of here, to get out of housing” (quoted in Gillis 2016). Storms suggests, ominously, that the stigma and attention that young men in the community receive from police posed ongoing, real, and potentially fatal barriers, for young residents. She suggests: “When you are trying to improve yourself, it doesn’t help when you have this stigma” (quoted in Gillis 2016).

Sadly, Wettlaufer was a classmate and friend of Sammy Yatim, a young man infamously shot and killed by police while he was completely alone and isolated on a Toronto street car. The officer who killed Yatim, James Forcillo was convicted of attempted murder in a curious verdict (“attempted murder” even though he actually killed Yatim) following a rare case of a police officer in Canada actually being brought to trial for killing someone.

The Wettlaufer family reported that their loved one was simply returning home after visiting his girlfriend at the time police confronted and killed him. His brother said he was walking through the park after taking his girlfriend to the subway station.

Family friend Diane Storms was shaken by the killing. She asks: “Can you imagine, talking to your child on the phone, then hearing gunshots? And then silence?” (quoted in Gillis 2016).

Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit (SIU), which probes incidents of death, serious injury, and allegations of sexual assault involving police, has been investigating the killing since Monday morning.  Four investigators and three forensic investigators have been assigned to the case.


Further Reading

Campbell, Will. 2016. “SIU Probes Death of 21-Year-Old Shot by Police in North York.” Global News. http://globalnews.ca/news/2575972/siu-investigating-after-man-injured-in-north-york-shooting/

Gillis, Wendy. 2016. “Man, 21, Dead after Police Shooting.” Toronto Star. March 16. http://www.thestar.com/news/crime/2016/03/14/one-dead-after-shooting-in-north-york-allegedly-involving-toronto-police.html

Wilson, Codie. 2016. “SIU Investigating after Toronto Man Killed in Police Involved Shooting.” CP24. March 14. http://www.cp24.com/news/siu-investigating-after-toronto-man-killed-in-police-involved-shooting-1.2815962