Police Abuse

Toronto Cops Shoot 18-Year-Old on Street Car Nine Times

Then tased him


shot by cops
via the Toronto Sun

Cops with apparent itchy fingers are hardly an only in America story. Police in Toronto shot a knife-wielding 18-year-old nine times, and then appeared to tase him about 30 seconds later for good measure. The teenager was on a city street car, while the police officers at the scene, at least eight of them, were outside the vehicle. Police haven't said what Sammy Yatim, the victim, was accused of doing, and won't confirm how many shots were fired, even as one resident recorded the incident on his cellphone. Instead, a police spokesperson deployed the infamous passive voice. Via the Toronto Sun:

What we understand is that there was an interaction involving the male and officers with the Toronto Police Service," SIU [an internal affairs unit] spokesman Jasbir Brar said near the scene of the shooting. "As part of that interaction, a police firearm was discharged and the male was struck."

The SIU wants anyone else who may have witnessed or recorded the incident to reach out to police as they launch their investigation into whether procedures were followed.

Video below:

NEXT: Apple Launches Investigation Into Conditions in Chinese Factories

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. My first first. Woo hoo!

    Also, I thought Canucks were supposed to be all pacifist and shit. Maybe these cops (at least the ones who shot the kid) are American expats…

    1. The Canadian government is not pacifist when it comes to anyone resisting the Canadian government.

    2. I thought Canucks were supposed to be all pacifist and shit.

      I take it you’re unfamiliar with hockey.

      1. Haha! No, in fact I’m a huge fan of hockey. I just sorta figured the on-ice thuggery was their outlet, their release-valve for all that pent up aggression that gets stifled in everyday Canadian life. (Except In Montreal. Anything goes in Montreal.)

  2. No eh’s included in the passive voice up north?

    1. You know why Canada has that name, eh? It was originally the Commonwealth Northern Dominions, a real mouthful, so they convened a meeting to discuss a shorter name. Some guy suggested they abbreviate it. “You know … C, eh? N, eh? D, eh?” Of course, you know Canadians, too polite to suggest anything else.

  3. So basically they got tired of waiting for him to comply.

    1. They waited, they shot three times, then waited, then shot six times then waited, and then they tazered him.

      1. You can never be too cautious when it comes to officer safety.

      2. I honestly think the waiting is a good sign…

        They weren’t trigger happy but were firing a small volley and then waiting for its effect.

        And the warning a few seconds in that “if you take a step toward me, I’ll shoot” was for me the telling one… I think the guy did take that step.

        I would not be surprised if the guy with the gun didn’t want to switch to the tazer because he was worried that the guy with the knife would charge him during the switch. It’s also possible that they were worried that the tazer wouldn’t hit (I’m not sure how firing upward through a narrow doorway works with a tazer).

  4. Romans 13:1, New International Version
    Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.


    1. That is applicable only to the time it was written since it doesn’t mention authorities that will be.

  5. “I really can’t comment on whether (the shooting was) a warranted reaction or an unwarranted reaction.”

    That’s a rather stunning lack of conviction for a police spokesperson.

  6. Several things lept out at me:

    1) Only one guy was shouting orders. This is in contrast to the infamous walmart shooting where the cops were shouting contradictory orders and the guy they shot was obeying one set and shot by guys demanding another set….

    2) The cop was very clear. “Drop the knife” was the main command. He did warn that if the guy took one step towards him he would fire.

    3) I couldn’t see who deployed the tazer, but I would expect it to have been a different guy.

    4) They did practice pretty good fire discipline in that only one or two people fired, and they were firing in bursts of a few rounds and then waiting to see the effect.

    A small caliber weapon will not immediately drop someone. Usually they can keep moving for a long time, although they will rapidly lose strength and stamina. A guy with a knife at close quarters can do a great deal of damage.

    It will be interesting to see what witnesses come out of the woodwork, but I would be surprised if it turned out to be something different from a guy with a knife doing something really, really stupid. The third volley and the tazer are kind of questionable, but these cops weren’t acting trigger happy, and I can envision several scenarios where a guy with several bullets in him might still have some fight in him. And getting hit with a tazer is still less bad than getting hit with more bullets.

    1. “A small caliber weapon will not immediately drop someone.”

      Toronto Police Service carry Glock 22s (.40 S&W hollowpoint).

      1. When I was gun shopping, many people have the opinion out there the .40 Glock has greater stopping power than the .45. I’m not an expert, so I’m just sayin.

        It doesn’t look like anyone was on the bus, so a couple of tasers could have taken him out.

    2. He did warn that if the guy took one step towards him he would fire.

      I don’t know that I would be persuaded by this. If, in an argument, I warn you that if you say another word I will punch you in the nose, when you speak and get punched, sure I can say I warned you but it doesn’t absolve me of prematurely introducing violence into the situation.

      1. Because words are deadly weapons.

        1. Obviously it’s not completely analogous, but I hear this argument from friends of mine who are LEO and their department’s policy is to use tasers as compliance weapons.

          1. Yeah, granted, there are more than enough examples of cops introducing violence when none is called for.

            I’m not a big fan of the argument that since cops just want to get home to their families after their tour of duty they can do almost whatever the fuck they want, but if the guy was holding a knife and if he was told to drop it but didn’t and if he was told that moving toward the cops would be met with gunfire and if he moved towards the cops, I don’t have any problem with shooting the guy dead.

      2. The corpse had a knife. He’s the one who introduced violence.

        I dunno. Looks like a good shoot to me based on aftapapic and the totality of the circs. And shit.

  7. My dad is a retired Crown Attorney, so he’s generally pretty entrenched in the “law and order yay!” side on these matters. And when I talked to him about this even his response was “I don’t know what the hell they were doing/thinking, honestly most cops didn’t used to behave this way around here”

  8. Probably worthy of mention… “The victim was taken to St. Michael’s Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.”

  9. It may turn out to be a really bad shoot, but nothing at this point makes me say, “OMG, those fucking cops!!”

    When someone with a gun tells you to put down your knife, that’s usually something you’re going to want to do.

    1. I’m with NEM here.

      1. Tasers couldn’t have been tried first?

        However, it conforms to my observation that most of the police shooting cases featured around here could have easily been avoided by the perp.

        1. If someone is moving toward you with a knife (if), you don’t “try” things.

          1. But as I said below, this guy was on a bus, and multiple cops were outside it with guns and Tasers drawn. He couldn’t easily rush anyone while getting off a bus.

            1. And as I said below, when the guy with the gun says to put down your knife, you probably need to put down your knife.

              Again, maybe it was unjustified but, based on what little we “know,” I don’t think the problem lies with the cops.

              1. Oh, I don’t argue with that. As I said, this is yet another case in which the perp brought it on himself. I just think it looks like a lot of bullets when tasers might well have been sufficient.

  10. Bad marksmanship might explain why they needed to fire 9 shots.

    But if the victim, armed only with the knife, was outside accurate handgun range, then logically speaking, he was also outside effective knife range.

    1. How long does it take to get from outside effective knife range to within effective knife range? You can be shot, more than once, and still do some pretty nasty things with a knife. I don’t think anyone should have to risk letting that happen, including cops.

      That doesn’t mean what they did was justified, but it doesn’t mean it wasn’t, either. The cops’ story at least has the air of plausibility that so many of their stories don’t. It could be utter bullshit and they could have essentially been executing the guy, but it doesn’t seem like there is enough to say for sure either way at this point.

      1. He was all alone with a small knife on a streetcar that was surrounded by cops. He’s not innocent here, but I have some trouble with the idea that anyone’s safety was at immediate risk.

        1. I have trouble with the idea that someone holding a knife in that situation doesn’t present an immediate risk if he is moving toward someone with that knife.

      2. How long does it take to get from outside effective knife range to within effective knife range?

        Not long. Saw a demo on the teevee awhile back showing that someone with a knife in their hand can close about 3 – 5 steps (memory is a little foggy), call it ten to fifteen feet, while someone with a holstered gun is getting on target.

        1. That was the implication. 21-foot rule. Granted, it has its critics and these cops had their guns out but people can close on you a helluva lot faster than people think.

          If someone with a knife is within 20 feet of you and you haven’t drawn your gun, you might never get to or at least never get to bring it to bear on them.

          People who talk about “oh, well, this guy was 20 feet away, he was no threat” really have no conception of the realities of self-defense.

          1. Yeah, but this guy was on a bus. Getting out of it would have slowed him down, and he only had one narrow path out.

  11. When he heard about it, Justin Bieber said, “If I had a son, he’d look like Sammy Yatim.”

  12. If you bother to watch the video, right before the first shots, he appears to be lunging toward the open door of the street car.

    There were things that could have been done differently, but it looks like he was either mentally deranged or this was suicide by cop. (Not mutually exclusive categories.)

  13. A Streetcar Named Ceasefire.

  14. You’d think he’d stop riding that streetcar already.

    I’m joking now, but that’s how I initially interpret these headlines. I was thinking 9 separate instances in which the same 18YO was shot.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.