Memorial grows for 16-year-old boy killed in Keele subway station stabbing
A 22-year-old man has been arrested and charged with first-degree murder
Toronto police have identified 16-year-old Gabriel Magalhaes as the victim of an "unprovoked" fatal stabbing at a TTC subway station on Saturday evening.
In a news release on Sunday, police said Magalhaes was sitting on a bench in the lower level of Keele station shortly before 9 p.m. when a man approached him and stabbed him.
Magalhaes, who was from Toronto, was taken to hospital where he later died of his injuries, police said.
Jordan O'Brien-Tobin, 22, of no fixed address, was arrested following the stabbing, according to police. He was charged with first-degree murder and was set to appear in court on Sunday.
Magalhaes's death was the city's 12th homicide this year.
In a statement on Sunday, the TTC described the stabbing as a "terrible incident" and the transit agency extended condolences to the teen victim's friends and family.
"Like everyone, we are concerned and saddened by this attack and we take incidents like these extremely seriously," spokesperson 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 Services as they investigate."
Deputy Mayor Jennifer McKelvie, for her part, said on Sunday her thoughts were with Magalhaes's family and friends, adding she hopes the individual responsible will face justice.
"The TTC has to be a safe place for all riders and transit workers — we can accept nothing less," McKelvie said in a statement. "I support the work the TTC, Toronto police and city staff are doing to implement additional safety measures funded by Toronto City Council in the 2023 budget including the hiring of 50 new special constables."
Two classmates of Magalhaes set up a small memorial to their friend outside of Keele station on Sunday. They said it was to help others remember him.
"He was a great guy. A lot of people really love him," said Daniel Bezerra, who added that he is still processing the circumstances of his friend's death.
Francesa Zalik said Magalhaes was the kindest member of their friend group.
"He was so funny. Such a funny, sweet guy," Zalik said.
Magalhaes 'will be sorely missed,' school principal says
In a letter to students, parents and guardians on Monday, Jennifer Kurtz, principal of Etobicoke Collegiate Institute, said Magalhaes was a student at the school and the community mourns the loss of his life.
"Gabriel was a kind student who enjoyed school and spending time with his friends and family. He will be sorely missed," Kurtz said.
"As you can appreciate, this is unexpected and very difficult news for staff and students."
Kurtz said the school social worker and guidance counsellor are available to provide support to students and staff. Anyone who needs additional support is encouraged to call the school, she said.
"I know you join with all of us in expressing our deepest condolences to the grieving family on the heart-breaking loss they have suffered."
WATCH | Teenager was attacked while sitting on a bench at subway station:
TTC, police respond to violence
The fatal stabbing is the latest in a string of high-profile acts of violence on the TTC targeting transit riders and workers. In the past year, victims have been pushed onto subway tracks, lit on fire, shot at with BB guns, stabbed, swarmed and otherwise assaulted.
Will Beckles, who goes through Keele station every day on his way to work, told CBC Toronto that he has stopped wearing headphones while riding the subway so that he can stay on "high alert."
"I have noticed other people as well are more alert. I think that is the only way we can protect ourselves," he said in an interview outside the station Monday.
"I myself am highly disturbed ... I think it's devastating that we've lost a young life. And also, because some of these events have been unprovoked, it causes uncertainty as someone who frequently uses these services."
Beckles said his fiancée has started using nearby High Park station because she fears for her safety at Keele.
Sebastian Windsor, another regular TTC rider who travels through Keele station every day, said he has felt safe throughout his 10 years living in Toronto, but recent events have shaken that sense of security.
"This is tragic. It scares me, to be honest," Windsor said.
Toronto isn't the only city facing rising violence on its transit system. In January, the Amalgamated Transit Union Canada, which represents 35,000 transit workers, called for a national task force involving all levels of government to tackle violence on public transit systems across the country.
Toronto police announced in mid-March that they were ending extra patrols on city transit that had been introduced in response to the spate of violence.
Police had announced in late January that about 80 officers working overtime shifts would patrol various locations on the TTC. But not everyone welcomed the move, saying an increased police presence wouldn't make up for a lack of social supports and deteriorating services across the city.
The disturbing circumstances of Magalhaes's death also prompted reactions from some politicians.
"My heart breaks for the family and friends mourning the loss of Gabriel Magalhaes. A son and brother, his life ended far too soon," said Ontario Premier Doug Ford in a tweet. "This was a senseless and unprovoked murder that cannot be tolerated. Everyone in Toronto and Ontario deserves to feel safe in their community."
Mark Saunders, a former Toronto police chief running to be the city's next mayor, said the "randomness" of the fatal stabbing "speaks to a massive deficit in how we manage the mental health needs of people in Toronto.
"This child was simply sitting there. Everything is connected to public safety, especially and foundationally — how we deal with mental health," he said in a statement.
The TTC has said it has an action plan to prevent assaults. The plan includes:
- Increased presence of special constables throughout the TTC network.
- More Streets to Homes workers to provide support and outreach for unhoused people.
- Increased presence of maintenance and transportation managers, who will rotate through the subway network during peak service to ensure safety and reliability of service.
- Increased vehicle cleaning during peak hours to maintain a clean environment.
- Ongoing work with the city and police to increase community support and improve incident response through short and long-term plans.
- Monitoring of statistics by special constables to identify issues.
With files from The Canadian Press