Ken Lee: Police identify man, 59, beaten to death by group of eight teenage girls while defending friend
Ken Lee, 59, was beaten and stabbed to death by a group of eight girls, between 13 and 16 years of age. Lee, an immigrant from Hong Kong who was reportedly trying to find housing in Toronto, was attacked while defending a friend whom the girls were attempting to steal alcohol from. He was rushed to a Toronto hospital after the vicious attack but was pronounced dead upon arrival. Detective Sergeant Terry Browne of the Toronto Police said each girl was arrested and charged with second-degree murder. Police were working to notify the victim's next of kin about the tragedy at the time of publication.
According to CBC News, a vigil was held for Lee at the Toronto Homeless Memorial downtown, where he was remembered as a quiet person and a devoted friend. "Nobody was surprised that he would stick up for somebody like that," Sanctuary Toronto spokesperson and pastor Johnson Hatlem said of Lee. According to Browne, Lee had started living in Toronto's shelter system in September 2022. "He does have a very supportive family in the area so I wouldn't necessarily call him homeless. Maybe just recently on some hard luck," he said. Speaking to CTV News Toronto, Roberto Sanchez, a doorman at a nearby Tim Hortons, said, "He was friendly. He was generous. He was a kind-hearted person. Everyone has their issues. But all in all, I didn't see him as a threat to no one. For those youths to do that to him - it's heart-wrenching. I can't believe it."
A nearby resident who witnessed the attack told CTV News Toronto that the girls were drinking and attempted to steal alcohol from Lee's friend. The victim was reportedly with a female friend in a plaza near the intersection of University Avenue and York Street when the attack took place. "They were sitting on a bench, sipping booze out of a mickey and having a cigarette," Ken Webber told the outlet, adding, "I saw the aftermath of the attack. The teens were standing outside the Union Station stairwell there, arguing, screaming, and yelling."
Speaking to The Toronto Sun, a police source said that the pack of girls were "like wild animals." They explained, "They're all young offenders. They attacked this guy like a bunch of wild animals. He tried to fight them off and they just kept coming back," adding, "He was just minding his own business, he wasn't bothering a soul." Browne noted how the crime even shocked law enforcement. "I've been in policing for almost 35 years and you think you've seen it all. Anyone who isn't shocked with hearing something like this has clearly just thrown in the towel and just said that anything is possible in this world. Eight young girls and most under the age of 16. If this isn't alarming and shocking to everyone, then we're all in trouble quite frankly," he said
Browne revealed that the same group was embroiled in an altercation earlier that night in the area. While the detective sergeant declined to release further details, he confirmed they had met on social media and came from "varying parts of the city." Browne added, "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 were acquainted with each other. I wouldn't describe them as a gang at this point."
The victim of a stabbing and beating attack by 13 year old girls in downtown Toronto, has finally been named publicly.— Mike Gibbs🏳️🌈🇺🇦 (@Mikeggibbs) January 11, 2023
Ken Lee, 59 years old.
He was murdered because he was unhoused because children learned from their parents and society that unhoused people are not human. pic.twitter.com/u7KJEaOtS7
Meanwhile, Mayor John Tory condemned the murder and said he was "extremely troubled" by the ages of the accused group of girls. "While we are continuing to learn details of this murder, I am deeply disturbed by the allegations made public so far. Everyone in our city deserves to be treated with dignity and respect," he said, adding, "I am so saddened to know that a man has lost his life in this way. Toronto Police have made several arrests in this case – I am extremely troubled by the young age of those accused and by the number of people allegedly involved in this murder."
Browne said the girls took part in a "swarming" and that police were checking if footage of similar attacks have been posted online. "Maybe these were eight young women that wanted to make a name for themselves and see if they could become socially famous. They are all equally culpable," he explained. "There is no doubt in our minds that they were all working as a singular entity in a swarming mob mentality when they chose to attack this man. All eight were together. All eight were involved. I won't say what each one individually did, but all eight were together and participating in this event, which is disturbing," he added.
Several weapons were seized from the group and three of the girls had prior encounters with the police. Browne said. "It's bizarre that they would all have hooked up together and found their way to downtown Toronto. Their primary residences are all over the place. I can tell you it was a shock to find out that their children were involved in an event like this."
Canadian police are unable to release the girls' identities as they are underage. However, they are urging anyone who saw the violent group that night to contact the authorities.