Sixteen-year-old Gabriel Magalhaes was heading home after spending time at the Eaton Centre with friends on Saturday when he was fatally stabbed at a subway station in what Toronto police have said was an “unprovoked” attack.
In an emotional interview with Global News on Monday, Gabriel’s mother Andrea Magalhaes and father Antonio Magalhaes spoke about who their son was and what they hope to see to prevent more violent attacks.
“My beautiful Gabriel. He was a little angel. He was funny,” Andrea said.
Andrea said she came to Toronto in 2000 from Brazil in search for a better life.
“We left São Paulo — a very, very, very dangerous city. Very violent,” she said.
“We were looking for a better life, opportunities. We wanted to have children. We wanted safety for our children so we came to Toronto.”
She said life in Toronto has been “amazing” and she “never” thought something like this would happen to one of her children.
“I thought there was no better place in the world to raise my children than here in Toronto,” she said.
“I don’t believe that he’s not coming back.”
Gabriel was a Grade 11 student at Etobicoke Collegiate Institute. Andrea described him as loving, hard working, passionate about school work and said he planned to go to university to study astrophysics.
“He didn’t get into trouble,” she said.
He loved snowboarding and they had planned on going snowboarding Saturday, but Gabriel wanted to spend some time with friends who he hadn’t seen in a while.
“He went to the Eaton Centre with his friends, took the subway on the way there (and) on the way back,” she said.
“So he was just sitting with his friend … at a bench and they were just being teenagers, chatting, but they were distracted. Just, you know, thinking you’re in a safe place.”
Andrea said she spoke to Gabriel’s friend’s mother, who told her the attacker “focused” on Gabriel and went right up to him and stabbed him.
“I asked if he had the chance to fight back… I was told he had no chance to defend himself,” Andrea said.
“This guy just came with a knife and I know he could’ve chosen a different body part to stab, but he stabbed him right in the heart three times.”
A nurse tried to perform CPR and someone got a defibrillator, but it was too late — “the damage was done,” Andrea said.
Toronto police said officers found Gabriel with injuries at Keele subway station on Saturday evening. He was transported to hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Gabriel was sitting on a bench on the lower level of the station when a suspect approached him and stabbed him without provocation, according to police.
A 22-year-old man of no fixed address was arrested and faces a charge of first-degree murder in the attack.
Andrea and Antonio saw a news report Saturday evening that there had been a stabbing at Keele station, but didn’t think it involved their son, with reports initially indicating that it was an adult who had been killed.
Antonio said he showed Andrea the news not thinking Gabriel was the victim, but just to show her that once again there had been a violent attack in the city.
“He was big, but not a man yet. … But at the same time I was worried so I texted him, ‘Where are you? You said you were coming home. You’re not here yet, what’s going on?’ He didn’t reply. Then I thought, no of course it’s not him,” Andrea said, but she couldn’t fall asleep.
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She thought maybe Gabriel was staying at a friend’s house for the night and forgot to tell her.
Around 3 a.m., the door bell rang and there was a knock at the door.
Initially, Andrea thought it was Gabriel coming home.
“The knock was unusual. It was like a very tough knock but I ran down the stairs. I was like ‘finally.’ It was like 3 o’clock in the morning. He’s home,” she said.
“And then when I came down the stairs I see two shadows. That’s not Gabriel. … I opened the door and I see the policemen and I knew when I saw the two policemen there, I just threw myself here on the floor,” Andrea said, breaking down in tears.
The officers confirmed that Gabriel had been killed.
Andrea then had to share the news with Gabriel’s 15-year-old brother Lucas. After she tried telling him during the night, she could see that he was confused and instead spoke to him in the morning.
He came down the stairs, Andrea said, with a smile on his face unaware of what had happened.
“I grabbed his hand and I took him upstairs and I was like ‘we need to talk.’ And I told him that Gabriel was dead and then he just (began) breaking down,” she said.
Antonio said the two brothers were always together.
“Life is never going to be the same. Never,” Antonio said.
“Not supposed to have a 22 year old killing a 16 year old. The system is wrong. For me there is lots of people should take responsibility towards this.”
While they have not received a lot of information about the accused from police, both Antonio and Andrea said they want to see more investments in mental health care.
“We pay a lot of tax. So we expect to have the minimum. That’s to be in a safe environment,” Antonio said.
Antonio said he feels the situation with safety in the city is “getting worse and going to be even worse” if something isn’t done. He said he feels his grandchildren one day might have to do the opposite of what he did: “They’re going to be moving out from Canada. Trying to (find) someplace safer.”
Andrea said she doesn’t blame the individual who killed her son.
“I know a lot of my family members and close friends are enraged and they are blaming the person who stabbed Gabriel. They blame him. I personally — I don’t know where I am my feelings are all over the place — but right now I don’t blame him. I blame the system,” she said.
“Why wasn’t he getting any help? … If we’re going to look into fixing the problem, it’s way deeper than just getting some security guards at the subway on the streets. We need proper supports in place. Instead of cutting funds to health care. We need to be investing more. This is a rich city. We pay a lot of taxes we want our money to go towards safety.”
Andrea said the solution to the problem has to “start from the bottom” and called for more supports and social services.
Isidro Lima, Gabriel’s grandfather, said he was “such a loving boy. So soft, so delicate.”
“It hurts me so much,” Lima said. He said he wishes he was in Gabriel’s place instead.
“I lived my life. He didn’t.”
Meanwhile, the principal of Etobicoke Collegiate Institute sent a letter to the school community on Monday informing them of Gabriel’s death.
“This has been a somber day for all of us as we mourn the tragic loss of this young life,” Jennifer Kurtz wrote.
“Gabriel was a kind student who enjoyed school and spending time with his friends and family. He will be sorely missed. As you can appreciate, this is unexpected and very difficult news for staff and students.”
Kurtz said some students will be understandably upset and the school will focus on helping students and staff cope, especially those who were closest to Magalhaes.
The school’s social worker and guidance counsellor is available for support, Kurtz said, adding that those who need additional support or guidance can contact the school.
“We do encourage families to talk about this event in whatever way that is appropriate for your family,” she said, noting that the TDSB has a grief and loss resources section on its website.
“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.”
Premier Doug Ford said in a tweet that his “heart breaks” for Magalhaes’ family and friends.
“A son and brother, his life ended far too soon,” Ford said.
“This was a senseless and unprovoked murder that cannot be tolerated. Everyone in Toronto and Ontario deserves to feel safe in their community.”