Tag Archives: Mental Health

Killer Toronto Cop James Forcillo’s Appeal Begins: Seeks Bogus Suicide-By-Cop Excuse

On Monday, October 2, 2017, killer Toronto Police Constable James Forcillo began the appeal of his conviction in the shooting and killing of 18-year-old Sammy Yatim on July 27, 2013.  Forcillo’s lawyers asking the Ontario Court of Appeal to reconsider an interpretation of the killing and the timing of shots fired by Forcillo.

In 2016, a jury acquitted Forcillo of second-degree murder but convicted him of attempted murder after he shot and killed the distraught Yatim, who was isolated and alone on a Toronto streetcar. Forcillo shot the stricken youth after he had fallen down from the first shots, leading to the attempted murder charge and conviction (since Yatim was incapacitated when he was shot what other motive was there to keep shooing?). Forcillo was sentenced to six years in prison but remains free on bail until possibly 2018 pending the outcome of his appeal.

Forcillo’s lawyers disagree with instructions from Justice Edward that allowed the jury to consider the killer cop’s first three shots as a separate event from his next six shots. They occurred five-and-a-half seconds apart, the second volley coming after Yatim had already fallen from a fatal shot to the chest.

Even more disturbing Forcillo’s lawyers are also appealing the conviction on the grounds that they were denied the opportunity  to frame Yatim’s killing as an attempted suicide. This ploy seeks to make use of the dubious and despicable “suicide by cop” excuse used often by police officers, forces, and police associations to justify and legitimize police killings of civilians. It has interested copagandist “criminologists” (typically current or former cops) ready and willing to promote the excuse in court on behalf of (fellow) officers. The lawyers argue that because Yatim wanted to die, less lethal interventions from Forcillo would not have worked. Forcillo lawyer Joseph Wilkinson argued at the Monday hearing that the trial judge should have allowed the evidence to “counterbalance” the Crown’s view that Sammy Yatim was a “person in crisis” who Forcillo could have dealt with without deploying  lethal force. This excuse always  seeks to remove the conscious decision of officers  to shoot someone even in cases, like that of Sammy Yatim, the victim is alone and isolated and poses no direct or immediate threat to the public or officers. The officer has the opportunity to decide and still chooses to shoot to kill. That is not suicide by any definition.

The case is being heard by a three judge panel consisting of Chief Justice George Strathy, Justice David Doherty, and Justice Gary Trotter.

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Killer Toronto Cop James Forcillo Has Bail Extended to 2018

Toronto police constable James Forcillo shot and killed Sammy Yatim in 2013. Forcillo shot Yatim multiple times, firing even after the stricken youth had fallen dead. At the time Forcillo shot Sammy Yatim, the distressed youth was isolated and completely alone on a Toronto streetcar posing no threat to police or the public (as captured on witness video of the killing). For this Forcillo was sentenced in 2016 to six years behind bars, for attempting to kill Yatim (but curiously not for murder). That sentence was a rarity for killer cops in Canada, who are rarely charged and almost never convicted as the state protects the state in such cases.

Forcillo has been out on bail as he appeals the verdict and sentence. On Friday, September 29, 2017, Forcillo was granted a bail extension. A bail extension document states that the appeal process will contain a “fresh evidence phase.” The previous bail conditions for Forcillo were set to expire on Sunday, October 1, 2017, one day before the killer cops is scheduled to appeal his conviction for attempted murder in killing Sammy Yatim. Forcillo will now remain free either until the day before that hearing or until April 2, 2018 (whichever comes first).

Killer cop Forcillo is asking the appeal court to substitute a not-guilty verdict or to  order a new trial in his case. Forcillo, a member of an institution that favors and promotes mandatory minimum sentences, is also seeking a declaration that the mandatory minimum sentence for attempted murder is unconstitutional (erstwhile proponents always want mandatory sentences dropped when they come close to home). Instead Forcillo wants to be granted a suspended sentence. Otherwise he seeks a reduction of his sentence to the minimum five years.

Incredibly, Forcillo’s appeal wishes to have arguments presented arguing for the bogus and discredited “suicide by cop” justification for police killings. This is a piece of propaganda, or copaganda, used to  excuse or legitimize police killings of civilians. It is a mechanism for blaming the victim and removing a killer cop’s responsibility in deciding to shoot and kill someone who may have been in distress, even where they posed no threat to the public or to officers (as in a youth alone in an empty streetcar). It is despicable and nasty ploy by police and their supporters. Unfortunately there are unprincipled “criminologists” for hire (usually active or former cops) who are willing to promote this copaganda in courts to defend killer cops.


SIU Ignores Important Questions in Terminating Investigation into Police Involved Death

Is it possible that police harassment or intimidation could lead someone to kill themselves? Is it possible that police might communicate to a vulnerable suspect in such a way that the person might then take their own life? Could fear of a specific officer lead someone to kill themselves if that officer called to tell them of an impending arrest or threaten them? These are only some of the questions that needed to be raised after a 43-year-old Smith Falls, Ontario, man killed himself on June 3, 2017, after a Rideau Lakes OPP (Ontario Provincial Police) officer called to tell him that he was facing charges and told him he should turn himself in.

Unfortunately, the head of the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) in Ontario, Tony Loparco, decided to terminate the investigation into the man’s death. That investigation had three SIU and two forensics investigators starting work. In an SIU media release, Loparco is quoted as saying:

“A post-mortem examination confirmed that the man died as a result of complications from a gunshot to the chest. When the man shot himself, no police officer was present. As such, there being no evidence that any police officer was responsible for the man’s death, this investigation has been terminated.”

This conclusion might be satisfying for police, their promoters, and copagandists everywhere but it does not address the key, pressing questions. Did the officer’s communication with the man contribute to his shooting himself? No officer needed to be present if intimidation, harassment, or threats led the man to despair. By terminating the investigation Loparco has ensured that these questions will not be properly pursued to real answers. Loparco has appeared quite friendly to police and drawn criticism from families of victims of police violence during his tenure.


ASIRT Uses Bogus “Excited Delirium” Again To Excuse Edmonton Police Taser Killing

Excited delirium is one of the favored excuses used by police and their statist supporters when officers kill civilians. It is an explanation considered dubious based on medical evidence and research and has been largely promoted by the makers of tasers as a means of justifying deaths that result after taser deployment. The condition excited delirium is not found in DSM-5 or the ICD-10 (the current versions of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and the International Classification of Diseases, respectively). Excited delirium has not been recognized by the American Medical Association or the American Psychological Association. Police psychologist Mike Webster called it a dubious diagnosis during the inquiry into the RCMP killing of Robert Dziekanski by taser at Vancouver International airport.

Yet coroners and supposed police oversight bodies in Canada continue to use the notion of excited delirium to excuse or legitimize police killings of civilians. The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT) seems particularly fond of using these excuses to justify killings of civilians by police. On August 28, 2017, ASIRT again trotted out the excited delirium excuse to justify the police killing of a 49-year-old man, Marcel Henry Moisan, in the late evening/early morning of December 7-8, 2015, involving multiple taser deployments and physical restraint.

In a media release ASIRT executive director Susan Hughson claimed the victim died as a result of excited delirium syndrome brought on by drugs in his bloodstream (not the use of tasers and/or restraints). Incredibly Hughson congratulated the Edmonton police for their use of “less-than-lethal force.” In her words: “Indeed, the resort to less-than-lethal force should be commended.” But they killed the man. Their use of force was exactly, precisely, lethal. It was not less than lethal.

ASIRT noted that Moisan (not named in the report) was experiencing some mental distress, and police had a record of a Mental Health Act encounter with the man in October of the same year. Yet no mental health care givers were dispatched to the scene. According to Hughson the man was clearly exhibiting distress to officers present and appeared to be rehearsing self harm actions. In her words: “He brought the knife to his throat. He appeared agitated, distraught, and confused.” He made “overt suicidal motions” appearing to slash at his neck with a knife.

In response police tased him again and placed him in leg restraints. Notes Hughson, in her release: “Within approximately two minutes and 55 seconds, the man went into medical distress. The restraints were immediately removed and CPR was commenced.” The man was transported to hospital where he was pronounced dead.

The coroner who repeated the bogus excited delirium excuse said: “It is the opinion of the [medical examiner] that the man died as a result of excited delirium syndrome that was due to methamphetamine toxicity; struggle during police restraint was considered a significant contributory condition.” Yet the police were exonerated despite acknowledgement of the use and role of restraints (the excusing of taser use is right out of the company playbook).


Repeat Killer Cop, Other Officers Cleared in Killing David McQueen, Quadriplegic in Wheelchair

The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT), the unit that investigates police harm to civilians, has cleared the repeat killer cop and the other Calgary police officers who shot and killed David McQueen, a 53-year-old quadriplegic man in a wheelchair, on January 24, 2016. ASIRT reported that several officers opened fire on McQueen with the last round fired , a bullet from a sniper, striking him in the head and killing him, but said the officers involved were fully justified in the killing. Police had reportedly responded to reports of McQueen firing a round from inside his house. Police fired tear gas into McQueen’s house driving him outside where they shot and killed him.

The killing of McQueen, quadriplegic with limited use of hands, in a wheelchair in his home, experiencing some mental distress has raised many disturbing questions. One of these relates to the fact that a officer who shot at McQueen was a killer cop who had committed a fatal shooting only a year before. That officer shot 27-year-old Anthony Heffernan four times, with three shots to the head and neck, on March 16, 2015. Heffernan had also been in some distress but was alone and confined to his hotel room and posed no threat to anyone, police or public, when police broke into his room and shot and killed him there.

The ASIRT investigation into Heffernan’s killing actually found evidence that an offense had been committed by police. The Crown claimed that there was not enough evidence to gain a conviction against the officer and did not pursue charges. The state certainly protects the state. The Heffernan family is suing Calgary police over the killing of their loved one.

In the ASIRT release on the McQueen killing, Susan Hughson, executive director of ASIRT, suggested that the killer cop’s involvement in the Heffernan case has no bearing on his right to use his firearm in another case. According to Hughson:

 

“You have to look at the incidents independently and look at the circumstances surrounding them to determine whether the steps taken or the actions taken were justified. And, just because the officer has been involved in another officer-involved shooting, he does not lose the protection of the law.”

 

Protection to kill civilians? Others might ask why the officer was still on the force and being deployed in such situations of a person in distress.

Director Hughson, noted McQueen’s distress: “There’s no doubt that this man was in crisis on this date.” Hughson noted that McQueen had been “struggling physically, emotionally and financially” in the days prior to his being killed by police. He has been particularly upset by the death of his beloved dog only the week before. Disturbingly ASIRT appeared to use this fact to make reference to a bogus “suicide by cop” defense for the police killing of David McQueen.

 


BEI Investigating Police Killing of Distressed Man Near Quebec City (August 10, 2017)

Québec’s Independent Investigations Bureau (BEI), the unit that examines police harm to civilians in the province, is investigating the killing of a 25-year old man by an officer of the Sûreté du Québec (SQ) around 7 PM on August 10, 2017 in Saint-Georges-de-Beauce, southeast of Québec City. According to the BEI, police responded to a call regarding a man experiencing some distress in the center of a street. The BEI states that the responding officer activated the flashing lights of the cruiser which caused the man to panic and run. After a foot chase that ended in a parking lot the officer shot the man. The SQ claim the man had a knife. None of the details have been independently confirmed. Eight BEI investigators have been assigned to the case and will examine the SQ version of events. The BEI is not an independent unit though and Montreal police will assist them in this investigation, which leaves police investigating police.


SIU Denies Justice for Tony Divers: Killer Hamilton Cop Cleared Despite Serious Questions

Family and loved ones of Tony Divers have been kept in the dark about the SIU investigation into the police killing of the 36-year-old Hamilton man. On Thursday, August 10, 2017, they received the awful news that the Special Investigations Unit  has cleared the Hamilton officer who shot Tony Divers will not be charged. The decision comes 10 months after the killing on September 30, 2017, a too long period of time in which questions from the family have not been properly addressed.

The officer responsible fired two shots at the unarmed Divers, with one bullet hitting the victim in the chest. Despite the fact that Divers was unarmed, SIU Director Tony Loparco concluded the officer was justified in believing his own life was at risk and in fearing that Divers was armed. Under Loparco the already questionable SIU has become something of a legitimation mechanism for cops who kill civilians.

Yvonne Alexander, Tony Divers’ sister, and a tireless advocate for information and justice, responded with the pained honesty of someone whose loved one has been killed by police: “I’m shocked but I’m not at all surprised. Because it seems to be the norm these days for officers to shoot and kill someone in mental crisis” (quoted in Bennett 2017).

Of particular concern for observers is the report that the call to police included a claim that Divers was  “anti-police.” Did this play into the quick resort to lethal force by Hamilton police?

This is reinforced by Loparco’s  conclusion in the case: “On all of the information that the [officer] had in his possession at the time he shot and killed Mr. Divers, I find that the [officer], subjectively, had reasonable grounds to believe that his life was at risk from Mr. Divers” (quoted in Bennett 2017). Because he was said to be “anti-police?”

Loparco continues: “I find in all the circumstances, that despite the after the fact knowledge that Mr. Divers was not armed, the [officer] reasonably believed that his life was in danger from Mr. Divers and his actions in firing upon Mr. Divers were justified” (quoted in Bennett 2017). This is in keeping with other SIU findings under Loparco.

Loparco further notes in his report that the officer who shot Tony Divers had had previous contact with the victim and considered him “anti-police and very violent” (quoted in Bennett 2017). The officer actually appears to have held several prejudices against Tony Divers, including the assumptions that he was involved in organized crime and a drug user. The SIU report does not delve into these issues in probing detail.

The family says that Tony Divers was struggling with mental health issues when the officer shot him. For the family, this did not matter to police who responded to their loved one through the prejudging lens that held him as simply a thug.

Edward Divers, the victim’s brother, said the decision and explanation for why the shooting is justified felt to him like “an eye for an eye,” that his brother was treated as a “violent thug” with no regard for his mental illness.

One eyewitness, who says he did not see Divers holding any weapon, also said the victim appeared to pose no threat to anyone. Yet he did note that Divers did not seem subservient to the officer, a situation that seems to provoke police violence (respect their authority or die). According to witness Joe Towers: “He didn’t look very afraid of the cop; he wasn’t being cooperative, but he didn’t look like he was any particular threat. It just didn’t seem like he wanted to be arrested” (quoted in Bennett 2017).

Further Reading

Bennett, Kelly. 2017. “SIU Clears Hamilton Officer in Death of Man Shot Near GO Station.” CBC News August 10. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/hamilton/divers-siu-decision-released-1.4204146