Teen killed in Toronto subway station stabbing remembered as kind, good friend

By Sharif Hassan and Maan Alhmidi, The Canadian Press

On blue cardstock taped to the outside of a Toronto subway station, the messages of mourning grew.

Some who knew Gabriel Magalhaes, and many who didn’t, paused Monday in front of the makeshift memorial at Keele station, where the 16-year-old was stabbed in an apparently unprovoked attack before dying over the weekend.

Nina Moore, a transit rider who didn’t know Gabriel, wrote a message on the memorial, saying her heart was breaking for the teen’s mother.

“Her kid was sitting on a bench in a public space in Toronto, and then he wasn’t. And that hits hard,” she said.

“It is every mother’s worst nightmare – your kiddo leaves and your kiddo doesn’t come back.”

Police have said Gabriel was sitting on a bench at the station on Saturday night when he was approached. A 22-year-old man of no fixed address was later arrested and charged with one count of first-degree murder.

The principal of the high school Gabriel attended said in a letter to students and parents on Monday that the teen’s death was a “tragic loss.”

“Gabriel was a kind student who enjoyed school and spending time with his friends and family,” wrote Jennifer Kurtz. “He will be sorely missed.”

Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113 (ATU), which represents nearly 12,000 public transit workers in Toronto and York Region, said officials are dismayed by the acts of violence on the TTC.

“Two incidents of violence were reported, one of which has led to the tragedy of loss of life of a young person. Any loss of life on public transit has a lasting impact on the families and communities of those directly involved, as well as on transit riders and transit workers,” ATU Local 113 said.

TTC violence remains a serious issue, advocates say

The teen’s death came as the TTC has been dealing with a series of high-profile cases of violence. On Sunday night, a man was stabbed on a TTC bus about four kilometres north of Keele station.

On Monday, Sofia Barysh added flowers to the growing memorial of Gabriel at Keele station. She said she didn’t know the teen but was shocked by his death.

“It is just devastating,” she said. “Just sadness for the family, sadness for this boy.”

Barysh said she doesn’t feel safe taking transit in the city anymore.

“I used to love to listen to music, I used to love to listen to podcasts (on transit), and now I’m constantly just walking around on eggshells,” she said.

“I’m thinking about purchasing pepper spray or whatever just to be safe, and this isn’t how it should be really.”

Residents terrified as safety concerns mount

Margo Lexon said she also doesn’t feel safe when commuting in Toronto.

“It is horrible, I feel very badly about what happened to that young boy, and I feel bad for his family,” she said while taking transit at Keele station. “No one should have to deal with that.”

Lexon said she’s told her own daughter, who is in university, to be careful every time she rides the TTC.

“I just tell her don’t sit on benches, don’t look at anybody in the eye, and the first (moment) that something is wrong, just get off the subway,” she said.

“It does make me afraid of what is happening in the city.”

RELATED: Man stabbed onboard TTC bus in Toronto’s west end

Stuart Green, a TTC spokesman, extended condolences to Gabriel’s loved ones and said safety “is paramount to all the TTC does.”

TTC CEO Rick Leary spoke with Toronto police deputy chief Lauren Pogue over the weekend about enhancing safety on the system, he said.

“We remain committed to working with police, the City of Toronto and our union partners on ways we can all make the TTC as safe as possible for customers and employees,” Green wrote in a statement.

“We also know that there are bigger societal and systemic issues at play when it comes to the root causes of these incidents that require a multi-pronged response.”

Toronto police had stepped up its presence on the transit network in late January by enlisting more than 80 officers to put in overtime shifts for extra patrols on the TTC. Those additional shifts came to an end on March 13. Police said they were returning to deploying on-duty officers on the TTC for regular, proactive patrols.

The TTC has added 50 temporary security guards as well as community safety ambassadors and outreach workers to the system this year.

With files from Lucas Casaletto of CityNews

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