Eight teenage girls, three just 13 years old, are facing murder charges, accused of fatally stabbing a 59-year-old man in downtown Toronto in what police described as a "swarming" attack.
The teenage suspects were arrested shortly after the victim was found on a street in Canada's largest city suffering from multiple stab wounds and was later pronounced dead at a hospital, Detective Sgt. Terry Browne said.
"I wouldn't describe them as a gang at this point, but what they are alleged to have occurred that evening would be consistent with what we traditionally call a swarming, or a swarming-type behavior," Browne said at a news conference on Tuesday.
A motive for the killing remains under investigation, but Browne said investigators suspect they were involved in another violent altercation just prior to allegedly committing the slaying.
He said the stabbing unfolded just after midnight on Dec. 18 and that the suspects were located and arrested soon after in the same area. He said a number of weapons were recovered from the suspects.
In addition to the three 13-year-olds, Browne said three 14-year-old girls and two 16-year-old suspects were arrested in the grisly crime that has sent shockwaves through the city of nearly 3 million people.
The names of the suspects were not released due to their age. Browne said they have already made one court appearance and remain in custody. They were ordered to return to court on Dec. 29.
Browne said the young suspects are from various parts of Toronto and that they met through social media.
The sergeant said the group made arrangements to join up in downtown Toronto. He said detectives believe they met in the heart of the city around 10:30 p.m. on Dec. 17, a day before the killing.
Police are investigating whether the group was involved in other physical altercations in the city and Browne asked anyone who encountered the girls or were assaulted by them to contact investigators.
The victim of the fatal stabbing, whose name has not been released, was a resident of Toronto, who has been living in a homeless shelter since the fall, Browne said.
"I wouldn't necessarily call him homeless, maybe just recently on some hard luck," said Browne, adding that the victim has supportive family members in the area.