Toronto police said Tuesday that eight teenage girls who met via social media have been charged with second-degree murder in the stabbing death of a 59-year-old man.
According to investigators, the girls assaulted and stabbed the man in Toronto’s downtown early Sunday morning. Medical personnel transported the man to a hospital, where he died.
Police report that the eight girls were arrested near the scene of the attack. Three of the girls are 13 years of age, three are 14 years of age, and two are 16 years of age.
Police believe that the girls attempted to steal a bottle of alcohol from the man, according to Detective Sgt. Terry Browne of the Toronto Police Service Homicide Squad.
He stated that the man had begun living in Toronto’s shelter system in September. The police have not been able to contact his family as of yet.
“I’ve been in policing for almost 35 years, and you think you’ve seen it all,” Browne told the Associated Press. “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.”
Browne said the girls were involved in an altercation earlier in the night. However, he declined to provide any further details.
“They met each other through social media. They come from varying parts of the city,” explained Browne. “We don’t know how or why they met on that evening and why the destination was downtown Toronto. We don’t know how long they were acquainted with each other. I wouldn’t describe them as a gang at this point.”
The girls acted together and were “equally culpable.” According to Browne, police will investigate if there have been similar “swarming” attacks on the internet.
According to him, a number of weapons were seized, but he declined to disclose what types of weapons were seized. Three of the girls had previously been involved in police encounters, he stated.
According to Browne, police had contacted the parents of the teenagers.
“I can tell you it was a shock to find out that their children were involved in an event like this,” he stated.
Eight girls, who are not identified due to their age, appeared in court for the first time and remain in custody. The next court appearance is scheduled for December 29.
Police are requesting anyone who witnessed the group of teens that night to contact them.