Eight teenage girls who met on social media have been charged with second-degree murder in the stabbing death of a 59-year-old man, Toronto police said.
A man, who has not been identified, had recently moved into the shelter system and was stabbed to death by the young suspects in the downtown Toronto area early Sunday morning.
Police said emergency crews responded to the scene at around 12.17am. in the area of York Street and University Avenue.
The man was taken to hospital with life-threatening injuries where he was pronounced dead.
The girls were arrested near the scene of the attack.
The three girls arrested were between the ages of 13 and 16, police said.
Detective Sergeant Terry Browne of the Toronto Police Homicide Squad said the girls were trying to take a bottle of alcohol from the man.
“I’ve been in the police for almost 35 years and you think you’ve seen it all,” Sgt Brown said.
“Anyone who isn’t shocked to hear something like that has clearly jumped the gun and just said anything is possible in this world.
“Eight young girls and most under the age of 16. If that’s not alarming and shocking to everyone, then we’re all in trouble frankly.”
He said he would not describe the group as a “gang” but they had a “swarm-like behaviour”.
“They met through social media. They come from different parts of the city,” he said.
“We don’t know how or why they met that night and why the destination was downtown Toronto. We don’t know how long they knew each other.”
Before the stabbing, the same girls were allegedly involved in another fight earlier in the night. However, police have not released details or released the names of the girls due to a provision of the Youth Criminal Justice Act.
Three of the girls had previous encounters with the police.
“Maybe these were eight young women who wanted to make a name for themselves and see if they could become socially famous,” he said.
Police said they are all equally guilty.
“There is no doubt in our minds that they were all working as a single entity in a mob mentality when they chose to attack this man.”
He said several weapons were seized.
“It’s strange that they would have all stuck together and found their way to downtown Toronto. Their main residences are everywhere,” he said.
He added that the parents of the girls were shocked to find out that their children had been involved in a serious crime like this.
The girls made their first court appearance and remain in custody. Their next court appearance is scheduled for December 29.
Speaking about the victim, Sergeant Brown said they were trying to reach the man’s next of kin.
“He has a very supportive family in the area so I wouldn’t necessarily call him homeless. Maybe just recently by some hard luck,” he said.
Police urged anyone with information about the incident to contact investigators.