TORONTO — The sound of nine loud gunshots shattered the quiet of a Toronto courtroom Thursday as a jury heard for the first time audio of the last moments of Sammy Yatim’s life.
The 18-year-old was holding a small knife on an empty streetcar when, after a 50-second confrontation with police, he was shot several times.
Const. James Forcillo has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder and attempted murder in Yatim’s shooting death.
Crown prosecutors have said they plan to prove that Forcillo’s actions during the July 2013 incident were neither necessary nor reasonable. Forcillo’s lawyer has said he will be arguing that the officer’s actions were justified and carried out in self-defence.
In court on Thursday, two cellphone videos taken by civilians, an audio recording from a microphone inside the streetcar, and a recording of police radio communications, combined with surveillance videos played earlier this week, all stitched together a narrative of what happened on the night of the shooting.
Yatim had consumed the drug ecstasy before he boarded the streetcar, the trial has been told.
After sitting quietly for about 11 minutes, Yatim suddenly swung a small switchblade knife in the direction of a woman seated near him. The action triggered a commotion which can be heard on an audio recording played in court.
A transit official can be heard reporting “a male being abusive” on the streetcar and Yatim can be heard yelling expletives. The jury has seen that he walked steadily to the front of the streetcar holding his knife and yelled out the front doors.
“Get off, run, don’t walk,” Yatim can be heard saying.
Yatim then has a calm conversation with the streetcar driver, asking him if he has a phone. When the driver asks who the teen wants to call, Yatim can be heard saying “dad.”
“There’s something going on, I don’t know what the (expletive) it is,” Yatim is heard saying.
Yatim then tells the driver “go, go go, I’m not going to hold you for ransom.”
Around this time, a police radio recording played for the jury is heard reporting the panic on the street car as a “person with a knife, male on a streetcar” and notes that no one has been injured.
The jury has heard that Forcillo and his partner were the first officers on scene. The audio recording from the streetcar picks up the sirens that mark their arrival.
Forcillo can then be heard screaming at Yatim repeatedly.
“Drop the knife, drop the knife, drop the (expletive), drop it,” Forcillo can be heard yelling harshly.
Yatim can be heard replying “no.”
“No pussy. You’re a pussy,” Yatim can be heard saying.
Forcillo can then be heard saying “you take one step in this direction and … I’m going to shoot you,” while another officer is heard saying “don’t move.”
Yatim can still be heard saying “no.” Seconds later, shots are fired.
The jury has seen on videos that Yatim had taken a few steps back from his position at the top of the streetcar’s front steps and when he moved back to where he had been standing, Forcillo fires three times, causing Yatim’s body to immediately collapse.
The first shots can be heard clearly on civilian cellphone videos of the incident.
Another call of “drop the knife” is heard and then, six more loud shots are fired.
A police radio recording at that time is heard saying “male has been shot” and “ambulance on route.”
The jury has been told that Yatim was hit by eight out of nine bullets fired by Forcillo — one in the first volley of shots caused a “catastrophic injury to his heart which killed him but he was also hit in the spine, arm, groin and abdomen area.
The jury has also seen that seconds after Forcillo’s shots, a sergeant called to the scene to administer a Taser runs up and discharges it at Yatim, who is on the floor.
The sounds from those moments are a combination of sirens and yelling.