Since the weekend, Sammy Yatim’s name has been trending in news headlines (and the Twittersphere) after a standup in a Toronto streetcar with police early Saturday morning ended with nine gunshots fired at the 18-year old boy, followed by a taser. Needless to say, he did not survive.
Just hearing the account is spine-tingling, but it has since become the point of extreme scrutiny across the web and IRL over the controversial nature of how Toronto Police handled the situation.
You see, citizen journalists shot the whole account on their smartphones and the raw footage seems to tell a very powerful story. (And just as an FYI to anyone who feels compelled to hit record, as long as you’re in a public space and you’re not obstructing justice, you have a legal right to document police actions. In fact, according to the legal experts in this piece, it’s highly encouraged).
You can watch “Marko G’s” recording for yourself as it’s embedded right below, but it’s disturbing…so if you don’t want to see the video, I’ll describe it in brief. You see Yatim at the front of the streetcar holding a knife in his hand. The police yell at him to “drop the knife.” I couldn’t hear Yatim retort “You’re a pussy. You’re a f**king pussy” but apparently he does. Then you hear gunshots. Nine of them. Moments later, someone decides to use a taser.
Even in my description, it’s hard not to get a little snarky about it, because it’s difficult to not see that entire situation as extremely excessive. As the viewer, if you know nothing else about the situation, all you see is a kid get brutally gunned down by Toronto Police. The taser after the fact may just be the worst part. Insult after injury.
It seems it was difficult for many people not to see the police’s actions as over-the-top (some have even compared this to the #TrayvonMartin case, which is also being heavily debated on Twitter).
Sammy Yatim. Toronto’s latest Trayvon. These are LIVES we’re dealing with. Where is the respect for THAT?!? #TorontoPolice
— OmarLunan (@thekeyofo) July 29, 2013
Hundreds of people took to the streets Monday evening starting at Yonge and Dundas Square to bring awareness around police brutality and protest the shooting death. The protest went along Dundas, and even got heated outside of the 52 Division Police Station (there’s a lot of “Shame! Shame!” being chanted in the video).
Online, people shared their grief, opinions and photos.
— Maryam Shah – TOSun (@MaryamSun1) July 28, 2013
As expected, there has been a wealth of healthy discourse occurring around the incident. Social networks are serving as live, personalized newsfeeds, offering raw photos/videos and opinionated commentary supporting all angles for individuals to analyze and deduce into their own conclusions.
Anis Litim of Toronto shared an imgur photo series offering this context on Facebook:
(Obviously not a fault of Litim’s, but just an observation photos 7-16 do not seem to actually be pics of Sammy Yatim. Whoever created that album may have a case of Arab Face Blindness, IMHO).
New CCTV footage was released yesterday that raised even more questions as it showed Yatim already crumpled on the ground before the last 6 shots were fired.
Reddit also has an active thread trying to crowdsource information in an effort to dispel some of the misconceptions around the case.
According to reports, Yatim moved from Syria about five years ago to live with his father in Toronto. His parents were divorced and his mother was still a pediatrician in Aleppo. His younger sister moved to Toronto once the civil chaos in Syria began. Yatim was a seemingly average teenage kid who finished high school and was enrolled in college for September. He was on his way to visit a friend on Friday night when everything went down on the streetcar.
Witnesses said he pulled a knife and exposed himself before passengers and drivers rushed off the streetcar. It is unknown whether he had a history of mental illness.
The officer who shot the gun has been suspended with pay. And the investigation by the Special Investigations Unit is reportedly underway.
Is #SammyYatim Toronto’s #TrayvonMartin? Are we too quick to associate some sort of grand, tragic context to our local incident?
Facts are still unfolding, so be sure to stay tuned to your newsfeed!
(Feature photo via reddit)