The Toronto Police Service has identified the suspect who allegedly stabbed a 23-year-old woman in the head and face multiple times on a Spadina streetcar Tuesday afternoon.
Leah Valdez, 43, from Toronto, allegedly approached and stabbed the young woman on a TTC streetcar heading southbound on Spadina Avenue and Sussex Avenue. Police say Valdez didn’t know the victim, who was transported to the hospital and suffered “life-altering injuries.”
Valdez was arrested at the scene and is now charged with attempted murder, aggravated assault, carrying a concealed weapon, possessing a weapon dangerous to public peace and possession of a prohibited or restricted weapon knowing its possession is unauthorized. Valdez appeared virtually in court at Old City Hall on Wednesday morning.
A witness who was nearby on Tuesday said a large group of mostly younger women flooded out, screaming, as soon as the doors opened at Sussex Avenue. “One was crying. They were just in shock,” said the witness, Michael, who declined to give his last name.
As police later marked potential evidence, blood could be seen smeared across the floor and door of the streetcar. Police recovered a knife from the scene and are asking that anyone with information about what happened reach out to them.
This attack is just one of a recent string of TTC-related incidents, including the fatal stabbing of 31-year-old Vanessa Kurpiewska at High Park station in December. Data shows violent crime has risen on the TTC during the pandemic, despite lower ridership, including crimes committed against TTC employees.
Police state two TTC workers were reportedly chased inside Dundas subway station on Wednesday morning, by a person holding a syringe. On Monday, police arrested four 13-year-olds following an alleged swarming assault of two TTC employees near Kennedy Station. On Jan 21, police say a TTC bus operator was shot with an “orange-tipped, rifle-style gun, that fires small projectiles.” They believe the same suspects are behind a similar incident that took place at Scarborough Town Centre on Jan. 20.
John Di Nino, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Canada called for a national task force to address transit violence on Tuesday. Public health experts say the root causes of violence, like inadequate housing and mental health services, need to be addressed.
There is no evidence linking mental illness with criminality, but when poor mental health is combined with other factors like long-standing homelessness, a precarious living situation and/or poor access to resources and supports, risk of violence increases, University Health Network’s Dr. Andrew Boozary told the Star in December.
In a statement coinciding with Bell Let’s Talk Day, Mayor John Tory called for a national summit on mental health on Wednesday, for politicians to discuss how governments can better “support Canadians living with mental health and substance addiction challenges.”
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