Warning: This story contains graphic details.
An alleged “swarming” attack in Toronto began when the eight teenage girls charged with the murder attempted to take a liquor bottle from the victim and his friend, the friend says.
That witness, whom CBC Toronto has promised not to name, said she was smoking a cigarette with the man outside a downtown shelter Sunday when the group of teens approached them and tried to get her to drink alcohol.
The 59-year-old victim, whose identity police have not released, told the girls to leave the two alone, the woman said.
“He protected me,” she added.
Then the group of girls started beating him repeatedly, she recalls. Frightened by the violence, she ran away as one of the girls followed her. She said she could see a lot of blood.
“Bleed, bleed, bleed. I didn’t know if they had a knife or what. I was just scared,” she said. “I think they stabbed his stomach.”
She said she went to the shelter and then brought him water. “I didn’t know he was going to die,” she said.
Local news channel CP24 quoted Toronto Police Det.-Sgt. Terry Browne said a liquor bottle dispute was somehow involved in the early stages of the deadly encounter.
The attack occurred around 12:15 a.m. ET near the corner of York Street and University Avenue, a block from Union Station.
Teens charged with 2nd degree murder
At a press conference Tuesday, Browne said the victim was beaten and stabbed by the group, which included three 13-year-olds, three 14-year-olds and two 16-year-olds. All eight have been charged with manslaughter. Their identities are protected by the Youth Criminal Justice Act.
According to Browne, the teens appear to have interacted on social media, but it’s not yet clear how or why they ended up downtown late Saturday and Sunday morning. They all live in different parts of the city, he said.
Investigators have no evidence that the victim was known to them, Browne added. All teens appeared in court over the weekend, with further trials scheduled for December 29.
Browne said police wouldn’t describe the girls as a gang at this point, but investigators are calling the incident a “swarming,” saying it normally involves selecting a target to be victimized.
On Tuesday evening, police were still trying to notify all of the man’s next of kin.
Browne said the man had only recently entered the city’s shelter system and had supportive family in the area.
“I wouldn’t necessarily call him homeless, but recently he had some bad luck,” said Browne.
His death was Toronto’s 68th homicide in 2022.
Toronto Mayor John Tory said in a statement that he is “deeply troubled” by the details of the case.
“Everyone in our city deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. I am so saddened to know that a man lost his life this way,” he said.
“I am extremely disturbed by the young age of the accused and by the number of people allegedly involved in this murder. My thoughts are with this man’s friends and all those who knew him as they mourn his loss,” added he to it.
Police are seeking information from anyone who was in the area of the attack between approximately 10:30 p.m. and 12:30 a.m.