A group of eight teenage girls who met each other on social media gathered together in downtown Toronto fatally stabbed a man multiple times in what authorities have described as a “swarming” attack.
Three 13-year-old girls, three 14-year-old girls and two 16-year-old girls have each been charged with one count of second-degree murder in the December death of 59-year-old Ken Lee, according to a press release from the Toronto Police Service.
Lee’s name was revealed on Tuesday after police were able to notify his next-of-kin about his death. Police said that he had been staying at a homeless shelter since last fall after falling on “some hard luck.”
The names of the eight girls were not released because they are protected under Canada’s Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA).
TPS Detective Sergeant Terry Browne previously revealed that Emergency Medical Services (EMS) staff were flagged down by bystanders on Dec. 18 and reported an assault on an individual in the area of York Street and University Avenue. The medics soon located an adult male who appeared to be suffering from multiple stab wounds and commenced emergency treatment – the victim was transported to a nearby hospital where he succumbed to his injuries and was pronounced dead.
Investigators responded to the scene and were able to quickly identify the suspects as “eight young females,” who were subsequently apprehended in the area of the crime scene and charged with Lee’s murder. Browne said police decided to charge each of the teens with murder because the evidence allegedly shows that each girl “played a role” in Lee’s slaying.
“All eight were together. All eight were involved,” Browne said. “I won’t say what each one individually did, but all eight were together and participating in this event, which is disturbing.”
Authorities have since said the teenage suspects – three of whom have had previous interactions with police – are from multiple areas across Toronto and they believe the girls first became acquainted on social media. The group is also believed to have been involved in a different violent incident earlier that same evening.
A female witness to the alleged stabbing reportedly told the Canadian Broadcasting Company (CBC) that the deadly altercation began when the teens attempted to steal a bottle of liquor from her. The witness reportedly said that she and Lee were outside of the shelter smoking a cigarette when the girls approached her and tried to take the bottle. When Lee tried to intervene, the teens commenced a “swarming” attack, police said.
The suspects began repeatedly punching Lee, the witness said, adding that she believed they then “stabbed his belly,” the report stated. “He protected me,” she said of Lee.
“I wouldn’t describe them as a gang at this point, but what’s alleged to have occurred that evening would be consistent with what we traditionally call a swarming,” Browne explained following the suspects’ arrest.
Browne also said that several weapons were recovered in connection with the crime, though he refused to provide any details as to what those weapons may have been.
“I’ve been in policing for almost 35 years and you think you’ve seen it all,” Browne said in an interview with The Associated Press. “Anyone who isn’t shocked with hearing something like this has clearly just thrown in the towel and just said that anything is possible in this world. Eight young girls and most under the age of 16. If this isn’t alarming and shocking to everyone, then we’re all in trouble quite frankly.”
All eight suspects appeared in court at Old City Hall on Dec. 18. One of the suspects has since been released on bond, according to Browne.
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