Just after midnight last Friday evening in Toronto’s westend a streetcar came to a halt, the passengers quickly exited followed soon after by the operator. Left on board was a seemingly distraught young man who in roughly 10 minutes time would be shot and killed by a Toronto Police Service officer. A service that is supposed to serve and protect the people of Toronto.
Normally, I’m willing to wait until an investigation has taken place and more details can come out in these situations. After doing a lot of reading and watching the videos which are available of what took place, I don’t really think the outcome of this should be anything to change the fact that a young man died a senseless death at the hands of an officer who is supposed to serve and protect.
While viewing the side by side footage I noticed that Yatim had moved back away from the bus doors. I had originally wondered if the boy had moved to exit the bus and the cop shot him at that point but it doesn’t appear so. He was corralled in a stationary streetcar, had no hostages and no where to go. This makes the killing about as senseless as you can get.
This strikes me that either the cop ignored training to evaluate the situation and attempt to de-escalate the situation into peaceful resolution or the training didn’t exist. I rather expect it is the former.
In discussions I’ve heard taking place over the last few days I’ve heard several say that we don’t know how we’d react in the same situation. That’s true, I don’t know how I’d react. Although I do recall those minutes when I was alone in a rural store and confronted with a masked man carrying a rifle and ordering me to empty the till. My first thought was my young sister in the attached living quarters and if she should walk in this could go bad fast. My conclusion was I needed to get that guy out of there fast. That’s my untrained mind reacting to a lethal situation.
I find it very hard to believe that a police officer, and reportedly an experienced officer, couldn’t have the presence of mind to immediately realize that the only person truly in danger at that moment was the young man on that bus. That the trained police officer didn’t see the need to attempt to assert some calm into the situation and attempt to talk that boy into surrendering or waiting until someone trained to do so arrived.
The words that could be picked up off the video sound a lot like a volatile father and son in a standoff. With the father angrily asserting his authority and ordering the son to drop the knife or else. Had that been a father and son in such a standoff, and the father had shot his son, the father would likely be under arrest charged with either 2nd degree murder or manslaughter. The cop is suspended and the death of Sammy Yatim is under investigation.
The question is, will the cop be held to the standard that they would have held the angry parent to?