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The Asian man who was allegedly killed by a “swarm” of teenage girls in Canada last month has been identified as Ken Lee, a 59-year-old homeless man.
The deadly attack was reportedly carried out by eight teenagers in the area of York Street and University Avenue near Toronto’s main train station at around 12:17 a.m. on Dec. 18, 2022.
Lee was pronounced dead in a hospital after he was allegedly assaulted and stabbed by the group of girls. According to Toronto police, Lee was trying to prevent them from stealing a bottle of alcohol from his female friend when the “swarming” attack occurred.
“He protected me,” the woman told CBC. “I didn’t know if they had a knife or what. I was just scared. I think they stabbed his belly.”
The suspects, who include two 16-year-olds, three 14-year-olds and three 13-year-olds, were all previously charged with second-degree murder. Their identities are protected under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.
One of the teenagers was granted bail in late December last year, while the rest await bail hearings that are scheduled for later this month.
On Tuesday, a ceremony was held at Toronto Homeless Memorial to denounce violence against unhoused people, as well as Lee’s murder.
According to police, Lee was an immigrant from Hong Kong who entered Toronto’s homeless shelter system in recent months and had a supportive family. His death marked Toronto’s 68th homicide in 2022.
“Hearing something like that and the people who were involved, it’s just something that’s completely beyond my understanding,” said Diana Chan McNally, a harm reduction case manager at All Saints Toronto, according to CBC.
“I get people coming in with all kinds of injuries from being beat up by complete strangers. This isn’t something that’s new, it’s ongoing, but I see it more and more. I think there’s just so much hatred and dehumanization of people who are unhoused,” she added.”
Gru, a Toronto advocate for the unhoused who also used to be unhoused, organized the memorial.
“That could be me,” Gru said. “Most unhoused people will tell you personal stories of being chased by people who are looking to beat them up. … We all know someone who died, we all know someone who was attacked.”
Helen Shum, a relative of the victim, launched a fundraising campaign on GoFundMe on behalf of Lee’s family to help raise funds for his funeral and potential legal fees.
“Ken was a kind soul,” Shum wrote. “He would help anyone in need, whether a close friend or just an acquaintance. Last fall, he was experiencing some bad luck and he left home determined to get his life back on track. We ensured that he knew we were always here for him and were waiting for him to return home. He wanted to resolve his issues independently, and we understood and respected his wishes.”
“Ken died a hero,” she added. “Our family is currently in the process of planning funeral arrangements and will provide more information once the details have been confirmed.”