The alleged assailants, three 13-year-olds, three 14-year-olds, and two 16-year-olds, were charged with second-degree murder, according to a police statement. Officials have not made their identities public because of their status as minors.
Emergency services responded to the wounded man about 12:15 a.m. Sunday after being flagged down by bystanders in Toronto’s York Street and University Avenue area, Detective Sgt. Terry Browne said in a news conference Tuesday.
He identified the 59-year-old victim only as a Toronto resident who had been living in the city’s shelter system since late fall. “He does have a very supportive family in the area, so I would not necessarily call him homeless, maybe just recently on some hard luck,” Browne said.
Police expect to release details of his identity after the process of informing his next of kin has been completed, they said.
Browne gave few details about the homicide investigation launched by Toronto police following the 59-year-old’s death, but said officials believe his alleged assailants met on social media and “come from varying parts of the city.”
“I wouldn’t describe them as a gang at this point, but what alleged to have occurred that evening would be consistent with what we traditionally call a swarming,” he said.
Shortly after the attack, police located and apprehended the eight alleged assailants nearby before remanding them in custody, he said.
“We don’t know how or why they met on that evening, or why the destination was downtown Toronto,” he told reporters, appealing for witnesses who were in the area starting at 10 p.m. on Saturday to share relevant information with investigators.
“We have information to believe that this same group of eight young women were involved in an altercation earlier, before becoming involved in this altercation,” he said. “If you were a victim or had contact with these individuals, we’d like to hear from you.”
“I think they would be easily identifiable because these two interactions involved what would be described as criminal behavior,” Browne said.
Three of the minors have had prior contact with the police, he added. He also confirmed that police had secured weapons in the process of their investigation, but declined to specify how many or of what type.
In their statement, police said the eight minors attended court at Old City Hall at 10 a.m. Sunday and are expected to next appear in court Dec. 29.
York Regional Police have previously issued public safety warnings about swarmings, in which a group of people approach a victim — often to rob that person. Earlier this year, Toronto police launched Operation Beehave in response to what they described as a “significant volume of swarming-style robberies” in the city of Vaughan, a Toronto suburb. “In all of these incidents, victims reported being swarmed and robbed by a large group of young people in the evening hours,” police said at the time.
As part of the July crackdown, officials announced charges against 12 minors in “a string of swarming-style robberies.”