The vast majority of people are demanding justice in the death of Sammy Yatim, the 18-year-old shot dead during a standoff with Toronto police last weekend. The vast majority, but not all.
Some are demanding retribution against the officer allegedly involved in the shooting, and that has police officials and Yatim’s family concerned.
Yatim, who will be laid to rest in a funeral today, was killed following a standoff with police last weekend. He was alone on a streetcar, brandishing a knife, when police surrounded the vehicle. Nine gunshots were fired and a Taser was later deployed. Video of the incident has spread online, fanning the flames of anger that appear at times ready to erupt in an inferno.
Const. James Forcillo was identified as the officer at the heart of an investigation into Yatim's death earlier this week. Since his name became public, he has become the focus of threats and insults.
Toronto Police Association president Mike McCormack told the Toronto Sun that he was worried for the officer and his family.
“It’s mostly on social media, mainly comments that are, at the very least, inappropriate,” he told the newspaper. “But the tone and nature of others is more concerning.”
Various messages posted to Twitter over the past few days have called Forcillo a murderer, a bully and a psychopath. Others said he should "burn in hell," and more than a few were too laden with expletives to entirely understand.
A Facebook page titled "Const. James Forcillo Must Be Brought to Justice" contained similarly outraged messages, but no outright threats against the officer.
Earlier this week, hundreds of protesters took to Toronto streets, shouting for justice and insulting officers sent to police the demonstration.
[ More Brew: Ont. ombudsman considers probe into Sammy Yatim shooting ]
Chief Bill Blair has said the shooting is extremely troubling and has vowed to investigate. The Ontario Special Investigations Unit is also looking into the matter and Ontario's ombudsman is considering whether to launch his own investigation.
Meantime, Yatim's family has said they do not blame the entire police service for his death, saying in a statement that they anticipated the results of the investigation. They are calling for justice, not for retribution. And the vocal few whose messages go too far have them worried as well.
CBC News reporter Steven Bull says Joseph Nazar, a close friend who has acted as a family spokesperson, says they are concerned about the threats against Forcillo.
"That is not right. We believe in the justice system. Let (it) take its course," Bull quotes Nazar saying in a Twitter post.
Nazar re: threats to officer who allegedly pulled trigger"those ppl that are calling police all kind of name we're not a part of (that)" #sl
— Steven Bull (@BullCBC) July 31, 2013
Justice for Sammy is not the same as vigilantism against a suspect, regardless of whether that suspect wears a badge. A message of love and support will be spread today as Yatim is laid to rest. Hopefully that message stays strong.
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