By Dylan Tulett
On July 27th, 2013, 19-year old Sammy Yatim was killed by two volleys of gun fire from Const. James Forcillo. Sammy Yatim was reported to be holding a knife pointed at Forcillo. Despite many warnings to lower the weapon, he kept the knife raised.
The James Forcillo trial has been widely covered by the media since the shooting. Recently, the grade 12 law class at RSGC gained an inside look at the trial when Liz Seeley, juror on the Forcillo trial, came in and spoke about the trial.
“Anytime a police officer is involved in a shooting, they bring in the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) immediately after, and they decide if they feel they are going to go forward with any kind of charge against the police officer. It is very rare that we find them going forward with the charges after talking to the SIU,” said Seeley.
“Originally, there was only one charge placed against [Forcillo]. The attempted murder charge was based on the first volley of three shots, then there was a five and a half second delay, and there were six shots in the second volley. The second volley was what the second degree murder charges were on,” said Seeley. Forcillo was found guilty of attempted murder, but not guilty of second degree murder.
One of the main points of interest in the testimony throughout the entire case was the training that Forcillo received. “One of the deputy chiefs… was there as a witness. He talked to us about the training. They go through a six-week training, and for three days a week, they shoot 100-200 shots at the target. To pass the test at the end of that, they have to hit 95% accuracy mid-mass (shoulders to waist). If they don’t pass, they don’t have a gun,” said Seeley. She explained that, “even in training they have to justify every shot they take. If they feel it’s a good shoot, and they can explain why they took it, then they are cleared for it.” This begs the question, why did Forcillo take a shot that he couldn’t justify.
The answer came later in the testimony. “Throughout the trial, it was discussed how dangerous knives have become, and how everybody carries a knife now… but through that six-week practice period, they do about half a day of training on knives, and sharp weapons,” said Seeley. Not only that, but “in training they are trained not just to shoot once. In training, they are trained to stop the threat, but they’re using 40 caliber hollow-nose bullets.” This is a major concern for many citizens. “40 caliber hollow-nose bullets– they use those because whatever they enter into, they mushroom into six metal pieces to do as much damage as they can. That’s what they focused on in the defence,” Seeley said. And moreover, “They’re now supposedly getting machine guns with other kinds of ammunition, which is kind of scary.”
Despite all the issues, there was an upside to the trial. “This trial did spark the talk about integrating more knife awareness into training, but I’m not sure to what degree or how real the discussion is,” said Seeley.