Toronto Chief Bill Blair promises answers after Sammy Yatim shot dead on streetcar

Matthew Coutts
Daily Brew

As residents of Toronto express anger over the death of Sammy Yatim, who was shot dead by police after being cornered alone on a downtown streetcar over the weekend, Chief Bill Blair has vowed to investigate the actions of his officers.

"I want to ensure all the citizens of the City of Toronto of our unwavering commitment to get the answers they seek," Blair told a brief news conference on Monday.

The comments come following the death of Sammy Yatim, an 18-year-old who was shot dead on a Toronto streetcar shortly after midnight on Saturday.

The Canadian Press reports that Toronto police received a call about a man with a knife on board a streetcar near Dundas Street West and Bathurst Street. A short time later, Yatim was taken to hospital with a gunshot wound and later pronounced dead.

Witnesses say the man had pulled a knife and ordered everyone to get off the streetcar.

[ Related: Ontario ombudsman to review police shooting ]

A video of the incident quickly spread online, showing a large contingent of officers surround the streetcar, which had at that point been abandoned by all of its passengers, save one.

An officer can be heard repeatedly shouting "drop the knife" before a total of nine gunshots are heard in two separate bursts.

A former Toronto police officer also told CBC News that the video showed an officer deploying a Taser on the victim (although in the grainy video, that is difficult to confirm).

"Should you be Tasering someone who’s been shot six or nine times and lying on the ground?” Ross McLean asked the network.

Blair confirmed on Monday that he had watched the video and had serious questions about the actions of his officers.

An investigation by Ontario's Special Investigations Unit is ongoing, as is a review by the Ontario ombudsman. Blair said he would conduct his own review into police conduct guidelines and submit his findings to the Toronto Police Services Board within 30 days of the conclusion of the SIU investigation.

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Blair said he has also reached out to the victim's family to express his remorse.

"As as father, I can only imagine their terrible grief and their need for answers. We will do our best to get those answers."

It is doubtful Blair's comments will be enough to satisfy an angry populace, many of whom are furious for what is being described as the execution of a man posing no immediate danger to the public, or the officers on site.

A protest has been scheduled for Monday evening, intending to march from Dundas Square, near Toronto Police Headquarters, down to the neighbourhood where Yatim was shot.

More than 1,000 people have signed up to attend the march on a Facebook page.

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