Sunday, December 15, 2013
Four Toronto officers fired guns during Queen subway shooting, SIU says
Witnesses say the man was holding a gun and told police he had nothing left to live for.
“The man has some gunshot wounds and we have not been able to determine which officer has caused those injuries,” said lead SIU investigator Carm Piro Saturday afternoon.
The man was rushed to hospital with life-threatening injuries around 8 p.m. Friday as panic broke out among transit users and Christmas shoppers at the nearby Eaton Centre.
The family of the man, whose last reported condition was stable, has not consented to the release of his name, the SIU said.
The SIU, called whenever police are involved in incidents that lead to serious injury or death, was notified of the shooting at 8:40 p.m.
Nine police officers responded to calls about a suspicious man with a weapon on a subway train, the SIU said.
As of Saturday afternoon, three of five officers who witnessed the shooting had been interviewed, said Piro.
The four officers who discharged their weapons had not yet agreed to speak to investigators, he said.
Piro said a “weapon” had been recovered at the subway station, which remained closed off until early Saturday afternoon, while four forensic investigators collected evidence.
Piro did not elaborate on the events leading up to the shooting.
Witnesses say the man was on board the train when it came to a stop at Queen station and it was announced that service had been suspended due to a passenger assistance alarm.
Christopher Godfrey was sitting close to the end of the train, his girlfriend napping on his shoulder.
As he woke up his girlfriend when the train stopped, he looked up and saw a tall, “scruffy” young man holding a black handgun pointed at the floor.
“I don’t want to hurt anyone, just get off the train,” the man told them, according to Godfrey.
“His demeanor was calm, almost sad … He didn’t raise his voice, he wasn’t pointing his weapon at anyone,” said Godfrey, who was sitting less than three metres away from the man at the time. The man looked “defeated” or “tired,” he said.
“At least to us, he was non-threatening save for his firearm.”
While the train was busy farther up, there were only a dozen people in their section at the end of the train, he said.
Their section of the platform was also almost empty, Godfrey said.
The couple quickly left the train — quietly informing others that there was a man with gun on the train as they did.
At the top of the stairs leaving the platform, they saw three or four police officers. Someone was telling them there was a man with a gun on the train.
“I interjected to tell them exactly where he was. They went running down the stairs, we moved up to the street where more police officers were already pulling up,” said Godfrey.
As the train remained stopped in the station, Jessica Wong says she boarded the second-last subway car.
As she waited, thinking that service would soon resume, she saw police officers in yellow vests walking by on the platform “like they were looking for something.”
“I turned my head, thinking it wasn't something serious and then I hear the policemen scream ‘put your hands where I can see them’ multiple times which caught everyone's attention,” she said.
She did not hear everything the man said in reply – but she says she did hear him say: "I don't have anything to live for anyways."
The police officers had their guns pointed at him, she said.
Wong and about 15 or 20 other people on the train quickly got off and walked towards the exit that leads to The Bay, she said.
She waited with a group of people there, thinking police had caught the man but then six or eight other officers arrived.
“They started directing us to leave the platform,” she said.
Fifteen seconds after she got a transfer that said 7:57 p.m. she heard between 10 and 15 gun shots, she said.
Then panic immediately broke out.
“That is when everyone started running up the stair case and escalators. People who were coming down were going back up, people were even running up and down escalators,” she said.
Yasar Nomey heard “14 or 15 shots” while on an escalator inside the Eaton Centre, near the mall entrance to the subway.
The new TTC trains are equipped with video cameras that may have captured much of the incident.
Lead investigator Piro said that some of the many civilian witnesses who have come forward also have videos.
Earlier this year, the SIU investigated the death of 18-year-old Sammy Yatim, shot and killed by police on an empty Dundas streetcar.
Yatim was shot eight times, then Tasered during the incident that bystanders captured on video.
Toronto police Const. James Forcillo has been charged with second-degree murder.
Yatim’s death has also sparked reviews of police use of force, and emphasized the need for ways to de-escalate situations.
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