Officer who killed teen on streetcar takes witness stand in his own defence

A Toronto police officer on trial for his deadly shooting of a teen on an empty streetcar says he never intended to kill anyone on the night he confronted Sammy Yatim.

TORONTO — A Toronto police officer on trial for his deadly shooting of a teen on an empty streetcar says he never intended to kill anyone on the night he confronted Sammy Yatim.

Const. James Forcillo has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder and attempted murder in the shooting death of 18-year-old Yatim.

The officer is testifying in his own defence and said he fired at Yatim because he feared an attack.

“The first sets of shots were fired because I believed Mr. Yatim was armed with a knife and was in the process of coming off the streetcar at me,” Forcillo told the court.

“The second shots were fired because I believed Mr. Yatim was in the process of getting off the streetcar to continue his attack.”

Forcillo, who told the court he wanted to be a police officer from the age of 12, said he didn’t plan on having the night end with Yatim’s death.

“I never wanted to kill anybody,” Forcillo said.

The jury at the trial has seen videos and heard audio of the confrontation between Forcillo and Yatim in July 2013 that ended in the teen’s death.

The jury has heard that Yatim had taken the drug ecstasy at some point before boarding a streetcar on which he eventually pulled out a small knife, causing panicked passengers to rush off.

Surveillance videos have shown Forcillo arriving at the scene, pointing his gun at the teen and yelling repeatedly at Yatim to “drop the knife.”

After a standoff that lasts about 50 seconds, Forcillo fires nine bullets in two volleys, eight of which hit Yatim.

A U.S. use-of-force expert called by Crown prosecutors has testified that Forcillo had multiple alternatives to lethal force before he shot Yatim, but didn’t use them.

Forcillo’s lawyers, however, have cast doubt on the credibility of the expert, arguing the former American police chief who has helped several forces reform their operations had a “lack of practical experience.”

Crown prosecutors have said they plan to prove that Forcillo’s actions during the incident weren’t necessary or reasonable.

Forcillo’s lawyer has said his client’s actions were justified and carried out in self-defence.

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