8 teen girls charged with murder in Toronto man’s swarming death

Eight teenage girls have been charged with second-degree murder in connection with the death of a 59-year-old man in Toronto, police say.

Police have not released the man’s name because his next of kin is still being notified.

Three of the girls are 13 years old, three are 14 years old and two are 16 years old, according to Det.-Sgt. Terry Browne of Toronto police’s homicide unit. Three had previous contact with police, he said.

Police believe the girls met on social media. None of their identities can be released under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

The girls appeared in court at Old City Hall on Sunday, were remanded into custody and are due in court again on Dec. 29.

Police have no evidence that suggests that the girls knew their alleged victim.

Browne said police wouldn’t describe the girls as a gang at this point, but investigators are calling the incident a “swarming,” which he said normally involves selecting a target to victimize.

WATCH | Toronto police say man was swarmed, then stabbed:

Toronto police say 8 teen girls charged with 2nd-degree murder

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Duration 4:15

Det.-Sgt. Terry Browne said the accused met one another on social media before meeting downtown. The attack on the victim, who relied on the city’s shelter system, was an alleged swarming.

At a news conference Tuesday, Browne told reporters a group of people flagged down emergency medical services staff in the York Street and University Area — in the city’s downtown core just north of Union Station — on Sunday around 12:15 a.m.

Police said the group of teen girls allegedly assaulted and stabbed the man.

Browne said the man was socializing with another person when the group of eight approached him. Police don’t yet know why the girls did so or why things escalated, Browne said.

The entire incident unfolded over the span of three minutes, he said. 

The man was taken to hospital by paramedics with life-threatening injuries and died a short time later, police said.

Browne said officers from 52 Division arrested the girls nearby and recovered a number of weapons. Police have not said what those weapons were.

“We are really trying to get a better understanding of what these young ladies were up to,” Browne told CBC Radio’s Here and Now on Tuesday afternoon.

Unclear why girls met that night, police say

The girls were also involved in an altercation before the stabbing, he said, describing their behaviour as criminal. The earlier incident is believed to be “similar in style to the swarming,” he said.

Police believe the group was in the area at least by 10:30 p.m.

The man had moved into Toronto’s homeless shelter system in late fall and had a supportive family system.

“He is not someone that I would describe as someone who appears or has been homeless for a long period of time,” he told Here and Now.

Police believe the girls came from various parts of the city. Investigators also don’t know how long the girls have known each other, Browne said.

“We really can’t see what the [connection] is with these eight young ladies right now. But our sense is, right now, that there’s probably some sort of social media component to it,” Browne told Here and Now.

Earlier, at the news conference, Browne said: “We don’t know how or why they met that evening and why the destination was downtown Toronto.”

The death marks the city’s 68th homicide of the year.

Anyone who witnessed the incident or who has information is being asked to call 416-808-7400, or to leave an anonymous tip with Crime Stoppers by calling 416-222-TIPS (8477).

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