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James Forcillo Trial: Sammy Yatim Was 'Going To Get Himself Shot', Says Veteran Police Officer

12/02/2015 05:39 EST | Updated 12/02/2015 05:59 EST

TORONTO — A veteran police officer who was seen reholstering her gun moments before her partner killed a teen during a confrontation two years ago testified Wednesday that she believed the youth's actions would get him shot.

Const. Iris Fleckeisen testified Wednesday at Const. James Forcillo's trial, recalling the night he shot down a knife-toting Sammy Yatim on an empty streetcar.

"I thought that based on Mr. Yatim's behaviour and actions that he was going to get himself shot," Fleckeisen said. "He was hostile, angry, belligerent, and he was very defiantly and prominently displaying a knife in his right hand."

Forcillo has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder and attempted murder in Yatim's death in July 2013.

"That night was and remains the most terrifying moment of my life."

Crown prosecutors argue Forcillo's actions during the incident weren't necessary or reasonable. Forcillo's lawyer contends his client's actions were justified and carried out in self-defence.

The jury that will decide the case has heard that Yatim had consumed the drug ecstasy before he boarded a streetcar on which he pulled out a small knife.

Videos and audio played at the trial have shown that Forcillo arrives on the scene, yells repeatedly at Yatim to drop the knife and fires nine bullets at the teen after a 50-second confrontation.

Under questioning from Forcillo's defence lawyer, Fleckeisen, a Toronto police officer for 24 years, said videos capturing the incident can't show the intensity of the situation she and her partner were in.

"There's no way you'll ever understand the heart-pumping, hand-shaking reality when you're involved face to face in a lethal force encounter,'' she said.

"That night was and remains the most terrifying moment of my life."

Fleckeisen recalled that when she and Forcillo arrived at the streetcar, her partner had the most direct path to the vehicle and arrived at its doors first, pointing his gun at Yatim and yelling at him to "drop the knife."

She had her gun out as well — "at the low ready'' — but soon holstered her weapon, court heard.

"It's very easy to misinterpret and oversimplify my actions that night."

"I reholster my firearm for the purpose of calling a Taser on scene because that is our only other recourse," she said, denying a suggestion that she put her weapon away because she didn't find the situation dangerous.

"It's very easy to misinterpret and oversimplify my actions that night."

The jury has heard Forcillo say his concerns about an imminent attack from Yatim appeared founded when he saw the teen jerk his knife towards him. The officer issued a warning to Yatim not to take another step towards police and fired when the teen moved forward.

Fleckeisen provided her own interpretation of that moment, saying Yatim made a "very deliberate, intentional motion forward'' in the moments before he was shot.

"Mr. Yatim looked like he was coming off the streetcar," she said, adding that Forcillo's shots were consequently not unexpected.

Following Forcillo's first three shots, Fleckeisen said, she saw the teen's outstretched legs jerking as he lay on the floor of the streetcar.

"It's almost like someone who's using their lower body weight to sit up," she recalled.

Forcillo followed six more shots at Yatim before a sergeant with a Taser arrived and deployed the conductive weapon at the teen.

Fleckeisen said other tactical options — such as using pepper spray on Yatim, throwing a baton at him, lobbing a baseball or paint can at him, blocking the streetcar doors with a bicycle, or closing them using an outside switch — were not appropriate for the situation.

The options have been suggested by a Crown use-of-force expert who has testified that Forcillo had alternatives to using lethal force but didn't use them.

"They fly in the face of all common sense and logic,'' Fleckeisen said of the options. "The reason no officer entertained any of those suggestions is because they are as credible as a bag of tricks."

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