8 girls met on social media. Now they’re charged in a Toronto death.
“If that’s not alarming and shocking to everyone, then we’re all honestly in trouble.”
TORONTO (AP) — Eight teenage girls who reportedly met on social media have been charged with second-degree murder in the stabbing death of a 59-year-old man, Toronto police said Tuesday.
Investigators allege that the girls assaulted and stabbed the man early Sunday morning in downtown Toronto. Police say medics took the man to a hospital, where he died.
According to the police, the eight girls were arrested near where the attack happened. Three of the girls are 13 years old, three are 14 and two are 16.
Detective Sgt. Terry Browne of the Toronto Police Service Homicide Squad said they think the girls were trying to take a bottle of alcohol from the man.
“I’ve been in policing for almost 35 years and you think you’ve seen it all,” Browne said in an interview with The Associated Press. “Anyone who isn’t shocked to hear something like that has clearly just thrown in the towel and just said anything is possible in this world. Eight young girls and most under the age of 16. If that’s not alarming and shocking to everyone, then frankly we’re all in trouble.”
Browne said the same girls had gotten into an argument earlier in the night in the area. He declined to divulge more details about it.
“They met through social media. They come from different parts of the city,” Browne 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 knew each other. I wouldn’t describe them as a gang at this point.”
Browne said they participated in a “swarm”. He would not say whether they videotaped it. He said they will check if there are similar attacks online.
“Maybe it was eight young women who wanted to make a name for themselves and see if they could become socially famous,” he said.
The police believe they all acted together.
“They are all equally guilty,” he said. “There is no doubt in our mind that they were all operating as a singular entity in a teeming mob mentality when they decided to attack this man.”
He said a number of weapons were seized, but would not say what kind. He also said three of the girls had previous encounters with the police.
“It’s bizarre that they would all join together and find their way to downtown Toronto. Their primary residences are everywhere,” he said.
Browne said police spoke to the parents of the teenagers.
“I can tell you it was a shock to find out their children were involved in an event like this,” he said.
Canadian authorities cannot release the girls’ names by law because they are minors.
They made their first court appearance and remain in custody. The next court appearance is December 29.
Browne said the victim began living in Toronto’s shelter system in September. He said they have been unable to reach certain family members and until they do, they will not release his name.
“He does have a very supportive family in the area, so I wouldn’t necessarily call him homeless. Maybe just recently on some hard luck,” he said.
Browne said they are asking anyone who saw the group of teenagers that night to contact police.
He said that 20 or 30 years ago in Toronto young teenage boys would swarm other people and Dr. Martens boots or Air Jordan shoes for a time, but said they disappeared.
“Has this happened recently that we are not aware of? Did people put this stuff online that we weren’t aware of?” he said. “This is something we are going to try to find out.”