A man has been charged with first-degree murder after a teenager was stabbed to death in a subway station in Toronto in what police are calling a random act of violence.
“This was an unprovoked attack,” said Constable Sinderela Chung, a spokeswoman for the Toronto Police Service. “We don’t know why the suspect attacked the victim. It wasn’t like they knew each other. The suspect and the victim were strangers.”
The 16-year-old victim of the attack, Gabriel Magalhaes, was sitting on a bench on the lower level of Keele subway station, in the city’s west end, just before 9 p.m. on Saturday when he was approached by a man and stabbed, police said.
The teen was rushed to hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Mr. Magalhaes’s stabbing death is the latest in a spate of violence on the Toronto transit system in recent months and comes about two weeks after police ended extra patrols.
It is the fourth killing of a Toronto Transit Commission rider in the past year. A woman was fatally stabbed on a subway train at High Park station in December. Another woman died after being set on fire on a bus at Kipling station last June. Last April, a man was shot at an entrance to Sherbourne station.
According to a woman who said she was at the scene Saturday, Mr. Magalhaes was with a friend at the time of the attack.
In a Facebook post, Angela Shintani-Sandrowicz said she applied pressure on the victim’s chest wound until two other bystanders, who were nurses, intervened. Ms. Shintani-Sandrowicz said she tried to comfort the young man and keep him conscious, cutting his shirt so the nurses could apply defibrillator pads.
Police arrested Jordan O’Brien-Tobin, 22 and of no fixed address, on Saturday night. He has been charged with first-degree murder.
Deputy mayor Jennifer McKelvie called Mr. Magalhaes’s death a “tragedy” and extended condolences to his family and friends.
“The TTC has to be a safe place for all riders and transit workers – we can accept nothing less,” she said in a statement.
The TTC said “our thoughts are with the family and friends of the victim of this terrible incident at Keele station.
“Like everyone, we are concerned and saddened by this attack and we take incidents like these extremely seriously,” spokeswoman Milly Bernal said in a statement. “The safety of our customers and employees is our top priority, and we will continue to work with Toronto Police Service as they investigate.”
Asked if the TTC would request increased police patrols on the transit system, spokesman Stuart Green said Toronto Police Service “decides where and when they deploy.”
Constable Chung said police “will continue to assess the needs of public safety on an ongoing basis” in collaboration with the city of Toronto and the TTC.
In late January, in response to several violent incidents on the public transit system, Toronto police began assigning more than 80 extra officers to patrol TTC stations and vehicles. Those overtime deployments, however, ended on March 13.
The heightened police presence resulted in more than 314 arrests, including relating to a firearm seizure, an unprovoked attack on a streetcar and two incidents involving assaults with weapons, police said. Officers also provided more than 220 referrals to people needing social supports, such as shelter, food and mental health services.
The extra police presence followed a series of high-profile violent incidents, including two stabbings on consecutive days, BB gun shootings and an alleged swarming.
Former police chief Mark Saunders, who is one of the declared candidates for Toronto mayor, posted the same comment about the stabbing on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram on Sunday: “Enough. We’re normalizing this. We need to prioritize public safety at city hall.”