The teenage girls alleged to have murdered a homeless man downtown in a “swarming” attack are also suspected in a string of random assaults along the TTC’s Line 1 the same night, a source confirmed Wednesday.
In a short news release sent Wednesday afternoon, Toronto police said they are seeking the public’s help to identify victims who were assaulted at five downtown subway stations between 10 p.m. and midnight on Dec. 17, hours before 59-year-old Ken Lee was killed near Union Station in an attack that shocked the city.
The release said “a group of 8-10 teenage girls randomly assaulted several people” at Queen’s Park, St. Patrick, Osgoode, St. Andrew and Union stations.
A law enforcement source, who was not authorized to speak publicly, said the eight girls — aged 13 to 16 — arrested last month and charged with second-degree murder in Lee’s death are suspected to be involved in the assaults.
A police spokesperson would not confirm if the same group of girls was suspected in the subway attacks and said that it was being investigated separately by the local division.
Police have not said whether any additional charges have been laid.
It is extraordinarily rare for young girls to be perpetrators of armed violence, and rarer still for them to be accused of murder.
The girls cannot be identified under the provisions of the Youth Criminal Justice Act.
The TTC has security cameras throughout the subway system, on trains as well as in stations. The agency normally deletes surveillance footage after 72 hours, in accordance with Ontario privacy commissioner guidance intended to strike a balance between adequate security measures and privacy rights.
The footage can be retained longer if it is required for a police or transit agency investigation, however. To access the footage, investigators would need to request it within the 72-hour period.
TTC spokesperson Stuart Green declined to answer questions about the Dec. 17 incidents, including whether the police or transit agency have access to footage of the alleged attacks. He said he couldn’t comment on an active police investigation, and referred questions to the police.
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Lee was publicly identified by Toronto police earlier this week. He was remembered by those who knew him as a gentle man who offered words of comfort to others who fell into the city’s homeless shelter system, often checked on shelter staff and appreciated a good cup of coffee.
Lee had been dealing with homelessness for some time, the Star has previously reported, and in the final months of his life he jostled between shelters while trying to get back on his feet. On a fundraising page set up by family members for Lee’s funeral and other potential expenses, relatives described him as a “kind soul” who tried to help anyone in need — but said after he experienced some “bad luck” last fall, Lee had left home “determined to get back on track.”
“He wanted to resolve his issues independently, and we understood and respected his wishes,” they wrote, describing the anguish their family was now left to contend with.
“This has destroyed our family and has completely devastated his elderly mother’s heart. A mother should never have to bury her child. Ken Lee was a beloved son, brother, and uncle. He was only 59 years old at the time and his birthday was last week,” it said.
On Tuesday afternoon, Lee’s name was added to the Toronto Homeless Memorial — a years-long ledger of lives lost while contending with homelessness throughout the city.
The teen girls were located by police shortly after the attack on Lee. One has been released on bail. Another has a bail hearing set next week, with additional court dates for the others later this month. None of them can be identified under youth criminal justice laws.
Anyone believing they were victimized should contact police at 416-808-5200 or through Crime Stoppers at 416-222-TIPS (8477), or at www.222tips.com.
With files from Ben Spurr
Jennifer Pagliaro is a Toronto-based crime reporter for the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @jpags
Betsy Powell is a Toronto-based reporter covering crime and courts for the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @powellbetsy
Victoria Gibson is a Toronto-based reporter for the Star covering affordable housing. Reach her via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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