A homeless man was identified Tuesday as the victim of a fatal "swarming" attack police allege was committed by eight teenage girls in downtown Toronto last month.
Toronto police said Ken Lee, 59, was beaten and stabbed by the group of girls, three who are just 13 years old, in the slaying that sent shockwaves through the city of nearly 3 million people.
In addition to the three 13-year-olds, police said three 14-year-old girls and two 16-year-old suspects were arrested in the grisly crime.
A woman who witnessed the attack told the Canadian Broadcasting Company that Lee was killed while defending her when the girls allegedly attempted to take a bottle of liquor.
"He protected me," the witness, who was not identified, told the media outlet.
The witness alleged the teen girls turned on Lee when he tried to intervene, punching and stabbing him before fleeing the scene.
"Bleeding, bleeding, bleeding," she described Lee's condition following the attack. "I didn't know if they had a knife or what. I was just scared. I think they stabbed his belly."
Detective Sgt. Terry Browne of the Toronto Police Department confirmed that investigators suspect an attempted theft -- "likely of a liquor bottle" -- preceded the deadly attack.
The teenage suspects were arrested shortly after the victim was found on the street suffering from multiple stab wounds and was later pronounced dead at a hospital, Browne said at a news conference last month.
"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.
A motive for the killing has yet to be disclosed, but Browne said investigators suspect the teens were involved in another violent altercation just prior to allegedly committing the murder.
The homicide unfolded just after midnight on Dec. 18 and the suspects were located and arrested soon after in the same area, Brown said. He said a number of weapons were recovered from the suspects.
The names of the suspects, who are all charged with murder, were not released due to their ages.
Browne said the young suspects are from various parts of Toronto and that they met through social media. He said the group made arrangements to join up in downtown Toronto.
He said Lee was from Toronto and had been living in a downtown homeless shelter after recently falling on "some hard luck."