The teenage sister of a young man who died after being shot by Toronto police urged mourners gathered at her brother’s funeral Thursday to take action to ensure his death is the last of its kind.
“Please everybody, lets be strong. Stop with the tears and start with the action,” Sarah Yatim told those who came to pay their respects to her 18-year-old brother, Sammy Yatim.
“He wasn’t the first to die this way but hopefully he can be the last,” she said in a tribute to the young man whose death has captured national attention.
The shooting of Sammy Yatim, which was captured on surveillance and cellphone video, has sparked public outrage over police use of force.
For his funeral, his sister donned a T-shirt bearing his photo and the words “9 shots…?” — a reference to the number of shots heard on the footage.
Family friend Joseph Nazar says Yatim’s parents — who were out of town when their son died — have been devastated.
Speaking before the memorial, Nazar said people came from all over to express their sympathy at Wednesday’s visitation, including many who had never met Yatim.
“There’s a lot of questions unanswered obviously but we know one thing. Sammy was taken away from us. Sammy never hurt anyone,” he said.
Hundreds of protesters took to the streets Monday night in Toronto to decry the young man’s death as the result of excessive police use of force.
The Special Investigations Unit said Yatim died Saturday morning after receiving multiple gunshot wounds during an “interaction” with police. A Taser was also used.
Nine shots can be heard on witnesses’ videos, and security camera footage shows Yatim pacing a streetcar then dropping to the floor after the initial volley of three shots.
Const. James Forcillo has been suspended and the Toronto Police Association president is urging the public not to jump to conclusions.
The SIU has designated 22 other officers as witnesses to the shooting. Forcillo’s lawyer, Peter Brauti, has said he is reviewing the case with an eye to deciding whether to recommend Forcillo submit to an SIU interview.
Officers who are designated as the subject of an SIU investigation cannot be compelled to give the agency an interview.
Yatim’s family released a statement on Tuesday saying they do not blame all of the Toronto police force for the death of their son, calling it a “tragedy for all involved.”
Ontario’s ombudsman, meanwhile, is questioning whether it is time for the government to review police de-escalation guidelines. Andre Marin has ordered a “case assessment” to determine if a full-fledged investigation into those guidelines is necessary in the wake of Yatim’s death.