Tag Archives: Toronto

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.

Advertisements

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.


Fifteen-Year-Old Shot by Peel Regional Police Dies

A 15-year-old boy who was shot by Peel Regional Police in Mississauga, Ontario on July 27, 2017, has died of his injuries. The death of the boy, who has not been named publicly as of this publication date, was announced on August 26. Following the shooting by police he had been taken to SickKids Hospital in Toronto. Initial reports claimed that police had been called about a robbery in the area of Creditview and Britannia roads involving three young men.

The Special Investigations Unit (SIU), the unit that examines police harm to civilians in Ontario has said that two of the youth fled while the youth who would be killed stayed in the area where he may have attempted other robberies (a video has appeared which CBC Toronto claims shows the youth brandishing a weapon, real or replica, at a Pizza Pizza worker). He was shot by police around 2 AM outside in a commercial plaza. The SIU has assigned six investigators and two forensic investigators to the case.


Toronto Constables Jeffery Riel and Darryl Lambie Identified as Officers in Killing of Kwasi Skene-Peters

A court case has revealed the names of two officers in the killing of Kwasi Skene-Peters (21) in 2015 to be Constable Jeffery Riel and Constable Darryl Lambie. The names of the officers who shot at Skene-Peters were released as part of a court case involving Kevin Duro (26), who was a passenger in the car at the time of the police killing. The officers were members of the controversial and now-disbanded Toronto Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy (TAVIS) team.

The names of police officers involved in killing civilians in Canada are rarely made public, typically only being revealed in coroners’ inquests, lawsuits by family members,  or court cases. Killer cops are rarely charged for their actions in the Canadian context.

The Special Investigations Unit (SIU) which examines cases of police harm to civilians but does not release the names of killer cops publicly has already exonerated the officers who killed Skene-Peters. They have not confirmed that the officers named in the Duro court case are the subject officers in the Skene-Peters killing, but the court case identifies them as the two who fired shots during that event.

Neither subject officer spoke with the SIU or provided a copy of their notes during the investigation, a limitation of such investigations. However, they had no problem giving their accounts of the shooting in order to secure Kevin Duro’s conviction on firearms charges.


Coroner’s Inquest Called into Toronto Police Killing of Kwasi Skene-Peters in 2015

A coroner’s inquest into the police shooting and killing of 21-year-old Kwasi Skene-Peters on July 25, 2015 has been announced. On August 2, 2017, Dr. James Edwards, the regional supervising coroner for Central Region (Toronto Easy office) gave notice of the inquest.

An SIU (Special Investigations Unit) investigation of the killing concluded that Toronto police had been instructed to set up surveillance at the Tryst nightclub on reports that Skene-Peters would be present. The Toronto Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy (TAVIS) (ironically) was also on hand to provide “additional officer support” and were parked in a nearby alley. Skene-Peters was in his car around 3 AM when a civilian vehicle boxed him in and police decided to make a charge on the vehicle.

Notably, a witness who spoke with CBC Toronto at the time reported that between 20 to 30 shots were fired and he did not hear police make any demands toward Skene-Peters before opening fire on him (CBC News 2017). Upon hearing the shots the witness fled in fear. Could a less dramatic approach by police avoided taking of a life in this case? Particularly given that Skene-Peters was in a vehicle and boxed in and police had positioning.

The SIU report noted that both of the officers who shot Skene-Peters declined to participate in the SIU investigation. There is currently no mechanism used to make killer cops comply with SIU investigations.

 

Further Reading

CBC News. 2017. “Coroner Calls Inquest into Death of Man Shot by Police in Entertainment District in 2015.” CBC News. August 2. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/kwasi-skene-peters-inquest-1.4232591


Absurd Identity Confusion as SIU Lets off Cop who Killed “John Doe”

Police kill someone they are supposedly looking for to add to an offender registry. They have supposedly arrested him before. Yet even after an SIU investigation into his killing it is announced that they do not know who he is. These curious questions of identity linger after the SIU announced that it would not press charges against the officer who shot and killed John Doe in a bush area near some train tracks in North York, suburban Toronto.

The unnamed man (who police claim is unknown despite appearing to know him) was killed on June 17, 2016 . he was shot by police along railway tracks between Weston Road and Highway 400 in the city’s north. The killing was apparently witnessed by two members from the Canadian Pacific Police Service and 10 more witness officers. The subject officer, who has not been named either but one can surmise is also known to police, fired five rounds at the man who had supposedly been camping near the tracks.

In June 2016, at the time of the killing, an SIU release identified the man as 42 years old. The July 12, 2017 report now says that “despite the SIU’s best efforts, the Unit has not been able to establish the man’s actual identity.” It now suggests his age is unknown. Yet, the SIU report also lists knowledge of two of the unknown man’s prior interactions with police, including a January 2012 incident when he was apparently shot multiple times, and a March 2015 incident. The 2012 SIU release identified that John Doe as 38 years old. Now his name and age are unknown. Was it the same guy? No one with the state seems ready to clarify.

Police reports suggest variously that officers were going to serve him with notice for failing to register with the provincial sex offender registry (even though no one knew his name anyway) or that they were going to arrest him for trespassing on the railway’s property. Either or both? Was he killed for trespassing? Why did CP police not deal with someone trespassing on their property themselves?


Inquest Rules Policing Killing of Andrew Loku Homicide, Highlights Anti-Black Racism

Andrew Loku (45), a refugee from South Sudan who suffered PTSD from experiences of torture, was shot and killed by Toronto police officer Andrew Doyle on July 5, 2015. On Friday, June 30, 2017, jury members in a coroner’s inquest into the killing ruled that his death was a homicide. Unfortunately, the Special Investigations Unit, the oversight body that examines cases of police harm to civilians had already decided, in March 2016, that Constable Doyle would not face criminal charges

The month long inquest headed by Dr. John Carlisle had gone beyond previous coroner’s inquests into police killings by actually addressing, at least in part, the role of racism in policing as influencing the actions of Constable Doyle and his partner Haim Queroub and contributing to their lethal use of force. During the inquest officer Doyle admitted to having almost no experiences interacting with Black men (Perkel 2017). Neighbors described Mr. Loku, a father of five, as a sweet man. Doyle and Queroub responded to him as something else. Lawyers argued that the officers’ fear of Black men contributed to their violent actions. It seems the inquest jury agreed.

 

The 39 Steps

The inquest jury made 39 recommendations which were read into the record by by coroner John Carlisle Among the recommendations are these:

Training police on implicit bias and anti-black racism.

Collecting race-based data, to be made public, and funding research to analyze the data.

Equipping police cars with less lethal means of force, including shields and helmets.

Allowing front-line officers to be equipped with Tasers.

Additional training for 911 operators to elicit more information during a call that can help aid in de-escalation.

 

Canadian Mental Health Association executive director Steve Lurie noted: “You have to pass a test on whether you know how to fire a gun, but you don’t have to pass a test on whether you know how to de-escalate” (quoted in Ghebreslassie 2017a).

The inquest ruling said that police officers should be exposed “to the perspectives and lived experience of racialized communities, the Black community and individuals with mental health issues and/or addictions.” Among the recommendations provided by the jury was that police be required to measure the effectiveness of training related to “anti-black racism and persons in crisis” through means of written and oral examinations. Officers should also be tested for implicit racial bia, and re-attend the training if they fail any of these.

Loku family lawyer Jonathan Shime said to reporters afterward that Andrew Loku should not have had to die for recommendations like these to raised and implemented. In his words: “To be frank, Andrew’s not here, and this whole inquest was necessary because somebody died and children are now without their father and sisters are now without their brother” (quoted in Ghebreslassie 2017a). This is the underlying truth in this.

On the whole the recommendations are not remarkable and some have been raised too many time before. They do not address the structural role of police and policing within state capitalist political economies and do not address their ongoing systemic measures as upholders of settler colonialism, white supremacy, and exploitation. But, that, of course will not be addresses through any state venue such as an inquest. The community groups and mobilizations around police racism and violence have shown the real possibilities for change and the necessity for change.

 

Institutional Racism and Police Violence

Observers of the inquest have commended the fact that finally an inquest has highlighted intersections between racialization, racism, mental health, and police violence. In Shime’s words: “The reality is a disproportionate number of black men are dying at the hands of police, and it’s time for that to stop. We need to reduce that to zero” (quoted in Ghebreslassie 2017a). As Shime and others have noted, the inquest made very clear that racism contributed to the police killing of Andrew Loku and officers did not need to use lethal force against him. The recommendations address, if insufficiently, issues of explicit, conscious, as well as implicit, subconscious, racism.

The inquest had heard how six people in the apartment complex had interacted with Loku ahead of the arrival of police. Neighbors said that they said they had been able to calm Mr. Loku down and that, in fact, he was about to hand over the hammer he was holding when the police officers charged onto the floor and confronted him (Perkel 2017). Within around 20 seconds of their arrival Constable Doyle fired twice, hitting Mr. Loku on the left side of his chest.

Shime argued that the officers panicked, in part because Andrew Loku was Black. In his words: “I don’t think Andrew needed to die. There were a number of failings with respect to the training and the handling of this situation that precipitated his death” (quoted in Perkel 2017). The issues go well beyond training of course.

Kingsley Gilliam, with the Black Action Defence Committee, identified systemic racism. In his words, following the inquest: “They recognized that anti-black racism, racism and institutional racism are problems and that racism permeates society” (quoted in Perkel 2017). Gilliam, went further, calling Loku’s death “an execution” (quoted in Perkel 2017).

Lawyer Selwyn Pieters, also with the Black Action Defence Committee, called out the stereotyping of Black men as aggressive and violent. In his words: “When you stereotype black people, particularly men that way, it is more likely to lead to very unfortunate outcomes for black men” (quoted in Perkel 2017). For Constable Doyle it seems that the stereotypes were all that he drew on in the encounter.

 

Black Lives Matter: Community Mobilization is Key

Pieters further said that there will be community mobilization if the recommendations of this inquest are not implemented. Clearly community members will we watching to see what happens with the recommendations. Pieters told reporters that the BADC wants to see all 39 of the inquest recommendations implemented within one year, along with those of an ongoing police oversight review by Justice Michael Tulloch, or there will be an active response. In the words of BADC member Kingsley Gilliam: “We are going to hold their feet to the fire” (quoted in Ghebreslassie 2017b).

The significant role of Black Lives Matter and other community organizers has to be acknowledged and lauded, both in initiating the inquest and in seeing issues of racism addressed. They also have to be lauded for broadly reframing public perceptions of policing in general. As Pieters suggests:

 

“There’s advocacy in the court and there’s street advocacy. You’ve seen Black Lives Matter were outside of police headquarters for two weeks to get this Loku inquest. I’m sure they’ll be watching this inquest with interest and they will respond appropriately if the recommendations aren’t implemented. They fought for this” (quoted in Ghebreslassie 2017b).

 

Friday’s ruling is not a criminal one, as the Loku family’s lawyer Jonathan Shime explained outside of the inquest Friday. In a coroner’s inquest, the word is used to mean a death was the result of someone’s action.

 

Further Reading

Coroner’s Jury Verdict. 2017. http://s3.documentcloud.org/documents/3883244/Andrew-Loku-Verdict-of-Coroners-Jury.pdf

Ghebreslassie, Makda. 2017a. “Andrew Loku’s Police Shooting Death Deemed ‘Homicide’: Coroner’s Inquest.” CBC News. June 30. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/andrew-loku-inquest-recommendations-1.4185715

Ghebreslassie, Makda. 2017b. “’We Are Going to Hold Their Feet to the Fire’: Advocates Want Loku Inquest Recommendations in Place in 1 Year.” CBC News. June 30. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/andrew-loku-inquest-recommendations-1.4185715

Perkel, Colin. 2017. “Inquest Jury Makes Anti-Racism Suggestions in Police Killing of Black Man.” Winnipeg Free Press. June 30. http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/canada/police-killing-of-andrew-loku-in-july-2015-in-toronto-ruled-a-homicide–431803453.html