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Toronto cop sentenced to six years in teen's death gets bail

Constable James Forcillo is appealing his conviction of attempted murder after a judge on Thursday concluded that his use of force against teen Sammy Yatim was "unnecessary, unreasonable, and excessive" and "an egregious breach of trust."

by Rachel Browne
Jul 29 2016, 1:55pm

Constable James Forcillo seen leaving a Toronto courthouse in January, 2015. (Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail)

A Toronto police officer who was sentenced to six years in prison yesterday for the attempted murder of 18-year-old Sammy Yatim, who was shot to death on a streetcar in 2013, has been granted bail pending the appeal of his conviction.

Constable James Forcillo spent last night in jail after Justice Edward Then issued a scathing ruling attached to his sentence, concluding that Forcillo's use of force against the teen was "unnecessary, unreasonable, and excessive" and "an egregious breach of trust." He also pointed out that Forcillo has not shown any remorse throughout the proceedings, a reason why he wasn't granted any leniency.

Forcillo is believed to be the first police officer in Canada to be convicted and sentenced for attempted murder. Yatim's death led to a judge-led inquiry that delved into the ways police in Toronto use lethal force when dealing with civilians who may have mental illnesses.

Earlier this year, a jury found that Forcillo was not guilty of second murder, but attempted murder after he fired a fatal volley of gunshots at Yatim, who refused to obey police commands to drop the knife he was wielding in the streetcar. The first volley of shots hit Yatim in the spine, arm, and in his heart and one of those bullets killed him. But Forcillo was convicted for the second volley, that came as he lay paralyzed on the ground.

Sammy Yatim's mother Sahar Bahadi embraces her daughter Sarah Yatim at a Toronto courthouse after Forcillo's sentencing. (Michelle Siu/CP)

Bystanders captured the whole thing on video, which became a crucial piece of evidence at trial. The standoff lasted only a couple minutes.

In her decision granting Forcillo bail on Friday morning, Ontario Court of Appeal Justice Eileen Gillese wrote that his release "poses no risk to the public as there is no risk that he would commit further offences."

"[D]espite the seriousness of the offence for which the Appellant stands convicted, in my view, fully informed members of the community will objectively understand and accept that it is not contrary to the public interest that he be released."

The prosecutor had opposed Forcillo's application for bail, telling the court that it's in the public interest to enforce the sentence in such a serious case.

Toronto's police chief Mark Saunders released a statement after yesterday's sentencing announcing that Forcillo had been suspended from the force without pay, and that he will still face disciplinary measures before the police tribunal.

Forcillo's next court appearance is scheduled for November.

Follow Rachel Browne on Twitter: @rp_browne