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Mourners attend candlelight vigil for teen killed in Toronto subway station stabbing

Andrea Magalhaes is consoled by her husband Antonio Magalhaes, as they react to seeing the bench at Keele Station, where their 16-year-old son, Gabriel Magalhaes, was killed in a random attack, during a candlelight walk in Toronto on Thursday, March 30, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tijana Martin

TORONTO — The family of a 16-year-old boy who was killed in an apparently unprovoked attack at a subway station led hundreds of people in a candlelight walk in downtown Toronto Thursday evening to remember and honour the boy.

The teen's mother carried a bouquet of white flowers and a candle and held her husband's hand as they walked with hundreds of Torontonians from the High Park north gates along Bloor Street to Keele subway station, where Gabriel Magalhaes was stabbed Saturday night.

When they arrived to the station, mourners lit up candles and put flowers in front of a blue cardstock that was full with mourning messages outside of the station.

"I feel so much love," Andrea Magalhaes, the teen's mother, said as she thanked those who attended the vigil. 

The event was organized by Magalhaes' former classmates from Keele Street Public School, who have described the boy as a lovely friend, student and neighbour who touched many lives. 

Daniel Bezerea, who went to school with Magalhaes, said the death of the 16-year-old was a shock to all of his friends

"He was attacked, right? It wasn't like he was sick or anything. It was like very, very bad. It's very sudden," he said. "It's very shocking for all of us." 

Shayam Eslampour-Maraghi, who knew Magalhaes from middle school, said he came to the candlelight walk to pay his respects to him and to his family.

"He was one of those kids who are like, I could never see myself ever disliking him. He was just a guy that you could tell anything to, never fight with," he said. "He was just someone that anyone can be friends with."

Co-workers of Andrea Magalhaes, who is a nurse at the Mount Sinai Hospital, also attended the candlelight walk, including Melissa Blow who said she has organized a fundraiser to support the mourning mother. 

"No mother should have to bury her child and have to fork out the expense for that either," she said. 

"It is not supposed to be like this. He is a 16-year-old kid just trying to go out and spend time with his friends on a Saturday night."

The teen's mother has called in media interviews for more mental health and social supports to be introduced to tackle the root causes of violence.

Premier Doug Ford reiterated Thursday he wanted to see more police patrolling Toronto's transit system. 

Asked whether the city could use provincial funds earmarked for guns and gangs to assign more officers to the Toronto Transit Commission, Ford said it would be up to the Toronto police board. 

"I've never seen anything like it before – all these tragedies happening, but it has to stop," the premier said, speaking at an unrelated press conference in Hamilton on Thursday.

"The way it stops and the way you pick up ridership is by making sure we have a safe transit system in Toronto and the way we have a safe transit system is our Toronto police working with our transit police and boots on the ground."

Toronto police put more than 80 officers working overtime on patrol in the TTC in late January in response to a spate of violence in the system, but ended those shifts two weeks ago. Police said they were returning to deploying on-duty officers on the TTC for regular, proactive patrols.

Police arrested and charged 22-year-old Jordan O'Brien-Tobin, of no fixed address, with first-degree murder in Magalhaes' death.

Court documents in Newfoundland and Labrador indicate a man with the same name and date of birth was wanted on an outstanding warrant for breaching probation conditions and had several criminal convictions in that province as well as Ontario. The documents said O'Brien-Tobin's last known address was in east Toronto.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 30, 2023. 

Maan Alhmidi, The Canadian Press

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