Toronto police Det. Sgt. Terry Browne says eight teenaged girls are charged with murdering a 59-year-old homeless man in what they believe to be a ‘swarming’ knife attack over a bottle of liquor. Photo courtesy of Toronto Police Service.
Dec. 21 (UPI) — Eight teenaged girls are charged with murdering a 59-year-old homeless man in Toronto in what police are calling a deadly ‘swarming’ knife attack over a bottle of liquor.
Toronto police Detective Sgt. Terry Browne told CBC in an interview Wednesday that investigators believe Sunday’s early morning deadly encounter started with the attempted theft “of a liquor bottle.”
“I don’t want to expand on that because we don’t have all the moving parts right now. But we do believe that does form part of the narrative involved in this,” Browne said.
Police said a witness, who did not want to be named, told officers she was smoking a cigarette with the victim outside of a shelter in Toronto’s downtown shopping district, when the teens tried to take her alcohol.
Officers said the woman told them that when the 59-year-old man told the girls to leave, they started punching him repeatedly.
The man suffered multiple stab wounds and was transported to a hospital where he was pronounced dead.
The teenaged girls, who include three 13-year-olds, three 14-year-olds and two 16-year-olds, are charged with second-degree murder. All eight were arrested shortly after the attack and a number of weapons were recovered from the suspects, according to police.
Browne said investigators believe the group of young females was also involved in an altercation earlier in the night, before the deadly attack.
“What we’ve gathered so far, is that they met each other through social media,” Browne said. “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 traditionally call a swarming.”
The victim of the fatal stabbing had been living in a homeless shelter since the fall, according to Browne, who said his name has not been released as authorities work to notify his family.
The eight girls, whose identities are protected under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, have made one court appearance and remain in custody. They will return to court Dec. 29.
“And if the young accused in this case are not experiencing mental health issues, what happened here makes it imperative we determine, as best we can, why something like this could happen involving people so young.”