By State Representative, Leon D. Young
It goes without saying that no country or place seems immune from random incidents of violence. The senseless rampage in Toronto last week is just the latest example of the turbulent world and times we live in.
By in large, news outlets have reported the facts that the killing incident began on a busy lunchtime thoroughfare in Toronto last Monday when a white rental Ryder van ran over a pedestrian crossing the street – then mounted a sidewalk and began plowing into people indiscriminately. By the end, at least 10 people were dead and over a dozen were injured. And, in the first hours after the attack, the authorities still had no “firm conclusions” about a motive.
But, what’s not being harped on and where this tragic attack in Toronto differs starkly in how it played out, was the response by Toronto law enforcement. And, the fact that the driver, who was not publicly identified, was in custody after initially refusing to surrender.
In a riveting scene captured on video, here’s how the miraculous capture unfolded: As people lay dying, the driver climbed out of his van and pointed an object at the police. “Kill me,” he screamed as he rapidly raised and lowered the object in his hand.
Instead, a police officer moved slowly toward the man, weapon drawn. “Get down,” he insisted. The man said he had a gun, but the officer continued forward. “I don’t care,” he said. “Get down.”
Within seconds, the suspect had raised both hands. The officer quickly got him onto his stomach and handcuffed. Not a single gunshot was fired in the exchange, earning the officer plaudits for his restraint.
It must be noted that such actions are now part of a concerted effort by the Toronto Police Service to have its officers de-escalate dangerous situation rather than open fire. In the past, Toronto police had faced widespread criticism for their use of force. In one incident from 2013, an 18-year-old named Sammy Yatim was shot nine times and killed by officers responding to a call claiming Yatim had a weapon.
It would be safe to say that American law enforcement has adopted a somewhat different view when it comes to using deadly force. According to the standards needed to use deadly force, as set forth by the Constitution and the U.S. Supreme Court: An officer must reasonably believe it is necessary to shoot to kill to defend him or herself or someone else from imminent death. But, reality tells a far different story in which numerous unarmed victims have met their demise at the hands of police officers in this country.
We can learn a lot from the way in which that Toronto police officer opted to de-escalate that potentially dangerous encounter. Rather than letting the situation snowball out of hand. He deserves to be commended for his valor and his decision to exercise personal restraint.