A group of eight teenage girls has been accused of fatally stabbing a 59-year-old man on a street in Ontario, Canada, in what police call a “swarming” attack.
The girls, aged between 13 and 16, were arrested shortly after the stabbing in downtown Toronto early Sunday. They each face a charge of second-degree murder, police said.
The girls, who were not identified because of their age, reportedly met through social media and gathered from various parts of the city. It’s unclear why they decided to meet that night and in that location. “A number of weapons” were recovered, police said at a press conference Tuesday.
“I wouldn’t describe them as a gang at this point, but what [is] alleged to have occurred that evening would be consistent with what we would call a swarming or swarming type behavior,” said Toronto Police Detective Sgt. Terry Browne.
There’s no evidence that the girls knew their alleged victim, who Browne said recently moved into the shelter system but had a “very supportive family” in the area.
“I wouldn’t necessarily call him homeless, maybe just recently on some hard luck,” he said. The man was not identified due to pending notification of the family.
Browne said the girls were first involved in a separate altercation around 10 p.m. on Saturday before moving on to their final alleged victim just after midnight.
The victim was talking with another person on a street corner when the girls approached him and attacked him, he told CBC News.
A woman residing at a local homeless shelter told the local news station that she was smoking a cigarette with the man outside of a shelter when the girls approached them and tried to take her alcohol. The man intervened, telling them to leave her alone, and they started to punch him repeatedly.
“He protected me,” she said of the man. “I think they stabbed his belly.”
Browne asked anyone who may have witnessed the attack or the altercation before to contact authorities.
“I think they would be easily identifiable because these two interactions involved what would be described as criminal behavior,” said Browne.
Three of the girls have had prior contact with police services, but the others have not, he said.
Their next court appearance has been set for Dec. 29.