Eight teenage girls who met on social media have been charged with second-degree murder in the stabbing to death of a 59-year-old man, Toronto police said.
A man, who has not been identified, had recently been drafted into the shelter system and was allegedly stabbed to death by the young suspects in downtown Toronto early Sunday morning.
Police said responders were on the scene around 12:17 a.m. in the York Street and University Avenue area.
The man was taken to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, where he was pronounced dead.
The girls were arrested near the scene of the attack.
The three arrested girls were between 13 and 16 years old, the police said.
Detective Sergeant Terry Browne of the Toronto Police Service Homicide Squad said the girls tried to take a bottle of alcohol from the man.
“I’ve been in the force for almost 35 years and you think you’ve seen it all,” Sergeant Browne said.
“Anyone who isn’t shocked to hear something like this has obviously just thrown in the towel and said anything is possible in this world.
“Eight young girls and most under 16. If this isn’t alarming and shocking to everyone then frankly we’re all in trouble.”
He said he wouldn’t describe the group as a “gang,” but they behaved “cluster-like.”
“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’ve known each other.”
Before the stabbing, the same girls were allegedly involved in another altercation earlier in the night. However, the police did not give details or the names of the girls due to a provision in the youth criminal law.
Three of the girls had previous encounters with the police.
“Maybe it was eight young women who wanted to make a name for themselves and see if they could become socially famous,” he said.
Police said they were all equally guilty.
“We have no doubt that they were all working as a single entity in a swarming mob mentality when they decided to attack this man.”
He said a number of weapons had been confiscated.
“It’s bizarre that they all banded together and made their way to downtown Toronto. Their primary residences are everywhere,” he said.
He added that the girls’ parents were shocked to find out their children were involved in a serious crime like this.
The girls have appeared in court for the first time and remain in custody. Her next court appearance is scheduled for December 29.
Regarding the victim, Sergeant Browne said they are 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 hit on some bad luck,” he said.
Police are asking anyone with information about the incident to contact investigators.