NEWS

Streetcar Shooting Video Not Whole Story, Police Union Says

07/30/2013 08:22 EDT | Updated 09/29/2013 05:12 EDT
An amateur video that shows Toronto police shooting repeatedly at a teenager armed with a knife is "just one segment" of a broader picture that could look different once Ontario's police watchdog completes its investigation, the head of Toronto's police union says.

"I can see why people would have questions, and that's a natural thing, and we're going to get the answers" from the investigation of the province's Special Investigations Unit, said Mike McCormack, president of the Toronto Police Association.

"Let's let the SIU do its work," he told CBC's Matt Galloway, host of Toronto's morning radio show Metro Morning.

At issue is the shooting death of Sammy Yatim, 18, just after midnight ET Saturday.

The video, which has close to a million combined views on YouTube, shows police crowded around a streetcar with Yatim aboard.

Witnesses say Sammy Yatim was alone on the 505 Dundas streetcar near Trinity Bellwoods Park when he was shot. He had pulled a knife and ordered everybody off the streetcar, witnesses say.

On the video, nine gunshots are heard within 13 seconds, followed by the sound of a stun gun.

The incident has sparked anger throughout the city, including a protest that drew hundreds of people to the city's downtown. It is being investigated by the SIU, the police force itself, and will be reviewed today by the Ontario Ombudsman.

Officer suspended with pay

The police officer who shot Yatim has been suspended with pay, and Toronto police Chief Bill Blair made a statement Monday saying that he wants answers as much as the public.

McCormack called both the suspension and the statement "extraordinary."

He said he plans to speak with Blair about why he chose to suspend the officer to make sure the proper processes are happening. "Our officer has not been accused or charged with anything at this point, and there’s been no finding of misconduct in any way," McCormack said.

The union head said he's been in a similar situation and that lethal force is sometimes the appropriate response to someone armed with a knife. He said the public's questions about the incident are valid, but there are a number of variables that the video might not make plain, and people will have to wait for the SIU investigation.

He said he doesn't believe there is a crisis of confidence in the Toronto police. "We've been through this before where people start to rush to conclusions," he said.

McCormack said the force is legally compelled to co-operate with the SIU and that the investigation will be transparent, full, and frank.

Also on HuffPost

Sammy Yatim