Const. James Forcillo was a "bully" and a "hothead" who didn't act like a police officer on the night that he shot and killed a 18-year-old Sammy Yatim on an empty Toronto streetcar, the crown prosecutor said during final arguments Thursday at Forcillo's murder trial.
Crown Milan Rupic began his closing submission by telling the jury that the ultimate objective for any Toronto police officer should be to preserve life and identify the safest possible outcome.
Instead, "what he wanted to do was assert his authority over a mouthy, mocking teenager without having to engage in the time-consuming exercise of building rapport and making a personal connection with a young man who he knew was in crisis," Rupic told the jury.
- 'Misperceptions' led to decision to shoot Yatim: Forcillo's lawyer
- Officer tells court pointing firearm was 'a form of de-escalation'
Forcillo is charged with second-degree murder and attempted murder in the shooting death of Yatim.
Police were called to the 505 Dundas streetcar route on July 26, 2013, after Yatim exposed himself to other passengers and brandished a 10-centimetre switchblade.
All the other passengers had left the vehicle by the time the 32-year-old officer arrived at the scene. Yatim stood on the streetcar alone when Forcillo ordered the teen several times to drop the knife, an order Yatim refused to obey.
Forcillo was standing outside of the streetcar when he fired his gun nine times. An initial three shots were followed by six more. Eight of the bullets struck Yatim.
The role of a police officer
At court Thursday, the Crown argued that when Yatim didn't immediately submit to his command to drop his knife, Forcillo made no attempt to de-escalate the situation despite training that teaches officers otherwise, according to Rupic.
"During his standoff with Sammy Yatim, the defendant was a hothead and a bully, and he demanded, and expected immediate submission," the Crown said.
At trial, the Crown's use-of-force expert testified Forcillo could have used other options before resorting to lethal force.
"Holding a firearm, that's a form of de-escalation," Forcillo said in cross-examination in November. But for de-escalation techniques to work, the officer argued, "the person on the other side has to be receptive."
But at closing arguments Thursday, Rupic maintained that with Yatim contained on the streetcar and no civilians in the area, Forcillo had the time to come up with a plan to peacefully resolve the situation.
"The defendant Forcillo wore the uniform of a police officer but he didn't act like a police officer," Rupic told the jury.
The teen posed no threat to Forcillo when the officer shot at him the first three times, Rupic argued – and certainly not when he shot a subsequent six shots at the teen while he lay in the empty streetcar.
But exactly what happened in between the two volleys of shots isn't clear.
In his closing arguments Wednesday, Forcillo's defence lawyer Peter Brauti said the officer's decision to fire the second volley of shots was based on "misperceptions," but that doesn't mean he should be convicted of murder.
"He did what he thought was the right thing as is his discretion," Peter Brauti said in his second day of final arguments. "The law forgives these kinds of mistakes."
Those "misperceptions" include Forcillo's testifimony that he believed Yatim began to sit up between the series of shots.
Video footage disputes that testimony.
A medical report also showed that one of those first three shots severed the teen's spine, which would have made it impossible for him to sit up.
It's unclear how long Rupic plans to speak to the jury as he responds to Brauti's closing arguments with his own.
The Crown built its argument around the idea that the officer did not have reasonable grounds to shoot Yatim, an idea that Rupic repeated in his closing statements to the jury.
To secure a murder conviction, it must also prove that the nine shots fired highlight the intent to kill.
If Forcillo were trying to simply de-escalate the situation, he would not have needed to fire that many shots, the Crown argues.
Closing arguments continue tomorrow.