In memory of Jeffrey Reodica –
killed by police for holding a ‘stone’.
Editor, Philippine Canadian News.Com (PCN.Com)
Seven years ago on July 31, 2013, I wrote this editorial about police shootings and innocent lives lost, including 17-year old Filipino-Canadian Jeffrey Reodica.He was shot three times in the back by Toronto police. He was subsequently cleared by an in inquest into the death.
In 2020, we see many more shootings and police brutality escalating beyond comprehension. We not only see police brutality but importantly, the racism implicit in these actions. Ironically, then Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair told reporters that people “have every right to be concerned”. Blair is now a Member of Parliament and Minister of Public Safety. This week, he ordered a public inquiry into the mass shootings in Halifax and how the RCMP handled the tragic incident.
Will the inquiry become just another ‘Oversight Unseen’?
July 30, 2013
Toronto teenage shooting
How many more lives have to be lost?
‘Oversight Unseen’ – Ombudsman’s report into Ontario’s Special Investigation Unit (SIU).
Five years after ‘Oversight Unseen’ came out in Sept. 2008, we are again witnessing the same incident that triggered (pardon the pun) the investigation.
What spurred the expensive investigation (notice how many times the word ‘investigation’ appears) into the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) were the series of police shooting deaths in Ontario. The report noted that “since 1978, on-duty police officers had shot at least 16 black people in Ontario, 10 of them fatally.”
Last week on July 27, 18-year old Sammy Yatim, a Syrian immigrant, was shot to death by a Toronto policeman inside an empty streetcar.
The officer has now been identified as Constable James Forcillo, a six-year veteran of the force. He is now suspended with pay pending the result of the investigation by the same SIU that was the subject of the Ombudsman’s investigation (again!) in 2008.
Interestingly The Globe and Mail reported that Forcillo belongs to the elite “sunshine list” of Ontario’s public sector employees receiving more than $106,800.89. Average salaries for police officers in the province are $60,000 to $70,000.
Filipino teenager, Jeffrey Reodica was shot to death in May 2004 in a Toronto shopping mall. Like Yahim, he was unarmed except for a piece of rock!
An expensive inquest and investigation by the police followed Reodica’s death only to come up with the usual result – the police were in their right to use lethal force to subdue a helpless young man already pinned to the ground.
‘Oversight Unseen’ came out with a searing indictment against the SIU and recommended several solutions. Among them is the need to erase the perception that the SIU have an unwritten ‘Blue Brotherhood’ pact with the police.
Members of the SIU are mostly former police officers themselves, the report says, acting and dressing like policemen down to the rings they have in their fingers (their trigger finger perhaps) – in ‘blue’.
Robert Dziekanski who was killed by police at the Vancouver International airport in 2007 was a Polish immigrant who spoke no English. One of the RCMP officers who shot him was recently exonerated of perjury charges.
None of these people – Yatim, Reodica or Dziekanski posed any danger to the police or the public at the time for their deaths.
Why would police then have to fire their guns ( seven times at Yatim and three times at Reodica) at a hapless boy wielding a knife from several feet away inside an already empty bus surrounded by at least five police officers all with drawn guns.
A witness in the Toronto shooting has come out saying that he was the one who made sure that all the passengers including her girlfriend, got of the bus before he himself got out.
Aaron Li-Hill, a 27-year old artist, told The Globe and Mail he was the last person to interact with Yatim by holding him at bay with his bike. Li-Hill said never at any point did Yatim hold the knife pointed at him but was holding it upwards.
Li-Hill, who was in close proximity to Yatim almost eyeball to eyeball, was able to escape unharmed, saving also the lives of all the other passengers with only a bike to protect him.
Yet the police who were outside the bus away from Yahim chose to fire their guns repeatedly even after he allegedly fell to the floor after the first few shots.
It seems there is a sort of ‘gun rage’ akin to ‘road rage’ that drives these insane acts.
This case, like others before it and others that would surely happen in the future has vastly shaken our faith in the police forces.
Which is too bad since I am sure, the majority of them still adhere to the motto –
“To preserve and protect”.
The shooting of yet another Toronto teenager this week is a grim reminder that our young people face death not only from their peers but also from the police itself.
Witnesses say Sammy Yatim was alone on the 505 Dundas streetcar near Trinity Bellwoods Park when he was shot just after midnight ET Saturday (July 27) morning. He had pulled a knife and ordered everybody off the streetcar, witnesses say.
It was 9 years ago on May 21, 2004 that a 17-year old Filipino, Jeffrey Reodica was shot dead by Toronto undercover police officers for allegedly threatening them with a rock.
That shooting also generated a lot of outrage from the Filipino community who condemned the shooting as a case of police using unnecessary lethal force.
A jury was instituted to investigate incident and the Reodica case was part of the Ontario ombudsman investigation into SIU.
And now we have another death of another teenager who is also the son of immigrants from Syria.
As always, there would be investigations but we already know the answer.
Police will be investigating their own and the ‘brotherhood in blue’ will protect each other and nothing will come out of it.
Perhaps it is time that affected groups of different ethnicities should stand in solidarity with each other, megabit basing, and demand that once and for all these senseless deaths should end.
The public does not need another whitewash.
The Toronto police officer who shot a teenager on a downtown streetcar two days ago has been suspended from his job with pay, CBC News has learned.
The news about the officer’s suspension comes hours after police Chief Bill Blair told reporters that people “have every right to be concerned” after an 18-year-old man armed with a knife on a downtown streetcar was shot repeatedly and killed by police this weekend — an incident captured by amateur video.