Eight teenage girls have been charged with murder in Canada in the stabbing death of a 59-year-old man in what police described as a "swarming" attack.
Toronto police responded to a call of assault near York Street and University Avenue shortly after midnight Sunday and found the victim with life-threatening injuries, the Toronto Police Service said in a news release.
He was taken to a nearby hospital, where he died shortly afterward. Police haven’t shared his name pending notification of his family. They said he was a Toronto resident.
Authorities said they learned the victim was assaulted and stabbed by a group of teenage girls, and eight teens were arrested nearby.
The girls — three 13-year-olds, three 14-year-olds and two 16-year-olds — have each been charged with second-degree murder, and they appeared in court at Old City Hall on Sunday, police said.
They have been remanded into custody and are scheduled to reappear in court Dec. 29, Detective Sgt. Terry Browne said at a news conference Tuesday.
He said the girls were in the area by 10:30 p.m. Saturday and alleged that they were involved in an altercation earlier, before the attack on the 59-year-old man.
He described the group's behavior in the fatal attack as “swarming,” which is when three or more people identify a target to victimize.
"Historically, this has involved a group of adolescent males who may do this to obtain something from the victim (i.e., nice running shoes, cellphones, etc.) or, on occasion, as part of a ritual for inclusion into a gang, as two examples,” he said.
The victim had entered the city's shelter system in the late fall, Browne said.
"He does have a very supportive family in the area. I wouldn’t necessarily call him homeless, maybe just recently on some hard luck,” he said.
Browne said that the eight girls come from different parts of the city and that they met one another through social media.
“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 have been acquainted together with each other. I wouldn’t describe them as a gang at this point,” he said.
Three of the girls had previous contact with Toronto police before the incident Sunday, while the five others did not, Browne said.
“A number of weapons were secured,” he said, without disclosing what they were.
Police ask the public to help with information about the group and to submit photo and video evidence if possible.