Tuesday, 30 July 2013

John and Sammy, rest in the peace of the Lord

John Anthony Domet on Queen Street
I've been very angry over the murder of 18 year old Sammy Yatim in Toronto by police, he was a young immigrant to Canada from the trouble in Syria. I say murder because that is what it was. Yatin was 18, a graduate of Brebeuf College School in Toronto. Last Friday night he was on a streetcar tram. He allegedly exposed himself and ordered the riders and driver off or at least, that is the narrative. Odd how our police ensure that we know that he was "exposed" considering they stood by only a few weeks ago whilst some so-called men paraded exposed in a parade. Sammy was apparently brandishing a knife with a 3" (7.5 cm) blade. Police arrived and within less than a minute fired at him nine times, then tasered him, he was dead. Sammy was wrong for brandishing a knife in public; wrong for exposing his private parts, if he indeed did. He may have been drunk, experimented with a drug or had one slipped into a drink, it was an area known for this. We really don't know. There seems to be no apparent history of mental illness; but coming from a country that is torn by war, we don't know what was going on in his mind. His crime was not punishable by death. The police were at the curb, they were not in danger and neither was anyone else; Sammy was on the streetcar behind where the driver would sit, police were not threatened. It was all caught on video. 

Before you jump in to defend Toronto Police, they could have turned the door close switch at the front of the streetcar trapping him inside and pulled the power feed of the line cutting the power. He would have then been secured. They could have waited him out, talked him down or waited for a higher authority; instead, and against their own policy if dealing with distraught individuals, they escalated the situation. They could have used teargas, used the taser before they shot him nine times, (isn't that what it is for?) or pepper spray or rubber bullets. Or they could have been men instead of pansies on bicycles wearing shorts and ttackled him with physical force and used a billy club.

He was one, they were ten, at least and they all stood around whilst one cop shot nine times, three times waited six seconds after he was down and then shot again, six more times.

They stood around and watched an execution. Then they tasered him and watching the video it even appears that they kicked him whilst he was down inside the trolley, the cameras inside will reveal the truth.

It seems to me that if there were no public videos, no YouTube, the story-line would have been much different from Chief Blair, "He was a mad-man, we tasered him without success, we had no choice but to bring him down, it was a good shoot." Lots of people are angry, some are the usual anti-police suspects and anarchists, but why am I so angry, other than for the loss of young life unnecessarily and for his family and my City. 

The man pictured above is my late uncle, John Anthony Domet. John died at the age which I am now of a heart attack. It came after years of psychotropic drugs and electroschock therapy treatments. John literally spent his entire life on Queen Street, only a few blocks from where Sammy died. He was born in 1924 at home above the family grocery store at Queen and St. Patrick Streets and went to St. Patrick's School and Church. He opened a Lebanese restaurant, the Arabian Village, in the early 1950's, long ahead of its time and it too was on Queen Street, it later became George's Bourbon Street and was next to the Rex Hotel where John would down a beer, because he had no liquor license next door. Later, after schizophrenia and manic-depressive disorder set-in following his mother's death, John spent much more time on Queen Street at the mental hospital and for a time at the then Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital only a few blocks from where the story below unfolds. John lived his later years in a rooming house in Parkdale just south of Queen Street and his funeral was at Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Church on Queen Street. His entire life was lived on one street within 3 kilometers. I helped carry him to his grave. He was a much-loved uncle by all of us, our gentle giant.

When I was about six years old, (1962) Uncle John was suffering some kind of delusion. He was at the house and upset. He picked up a kitchen knife and threw it across the room in anger, not at anyone in particular. He then ran out of the house. My mother who loved him like her own brother called the family doctor, a man with a rather odd name, Dr. Jolly. She told him what happened and said that I was alone at home and she was going out to look for Johnny.

A few minutes later, Doc Jolly's black Lincoln Continental pulled up in front of the house, he came to get me not to leave me alone, I imagine in case Uncle John came back. John would never hurt anyone; we never had any fear of him, we loved him deeply and he knew it. Doc's daughter was in the car. I sat in the back seat.

It seems that somewhere in that period, Doc called the police.

The Lincoln pulled away from the house and went straight down to the "highway" as we called it then, it is now a street with streetcar trams that John often took and which Sammy died on.

As we got to the corner, there, outside the Laundromat, now a Sushi restaurant, was Uncle John. He was lying on his back, with two cops over him and guns drawn pointed at his head. Mike Offstein, my Lebanese uncle's good Jewish friend and the best Variety Shop owner one could ever know as a child, was there talking the police down to ensure that his friend John was safe.

That was 1962. I remember it as if it were yesterday. 

The police have learnt little over the years. John could have been Lestor Donaldson or Wayne Williams, Edmund Yu, Otto Vass or Sylvia Klibingaitis or others who had some form of mental illness or distress and were shot by Toronto Police because it was the easier way out.

It could have happened to John Anthony Domet if not for Mike Offstein and I could have witnessed it all at the age of six.

God rest you Uncle John.

God rest you Sammy Yatin.

1 comment:

Seraphic said...

Geez, Vox. That's awful. Sorry you lived through that at such a young age.