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Stabbing of teen stuns North York neighbourhood

By CAROLINE ALPHONSO, CHRISTIE BLATCHFORD, JOEL KOM
With a report from Canadian Press, 8:26 AM, Monday, Dec 13, 2004


TORONTO -- Police are looking for two youths after an 18-year-old was fatally stabbed this weekend in the driveway of his parents' upscale Toronto home as he attempted to deny entry to uninvited guests at a party being held by his younger brother.

Tanner Hopkins died of a stab wound to the left side of his chest, according to police autopsy results. Police found him lying in the driveway of his home in the area of Bayview Avenue and York Mills Road, a posh North York neighbourhood. Last night Tanner's father Dr. Robert Hopkins said his wife Charryn, daughter Caitlin and son Cameron were trying to understand how the tragedy could have happened. "Tanner's senseless passing has left us shattered," he said in a release. "I guess what hurts the most is that we always thought Tanner had so much potential and he was so looking forward to his future. He was maturing into such a wonderful young man."

Dr. Hopkins said his son had applied for entrance to an architectural school for this coming fall. "His plans included a life with his companion of over four years, Sarah." Tanner had gone home to check on 16-year-old Cameron while his parents were at the family cottage. He refused entry to about 10 teenagers that neither he nor Cameron knew. There was a confrontation with at least two of the party-crashers, and Tanner was stabbed. Police were at a loss to explain why it had happened, saying that Tanner was a "good kid" from a good family. Police are still interviewing witnesses, and have no suspect descriptions.

"It's just a terrible tragic thing. I've lived here for 36 years. I've raised my children here," said neighbour Maxine Newton, 69. "This is a shock to all of us." Yesterday, the home was sealed off with police tape and surrounded by police vehicles. Christmas lights were strung along the roof and a basketball hoop stood in the driveway. A small memorial was set up along the sidewalk, where people laid bouquets of flowers. Ms. Newton, who had just returned from vacation, said she was upset to see something like this happen in what she described as a quiet neighbourhood.

She often saw the two boys playing basketball in the driveway. "They're clean-cut, lovely kids," she said. She also had positive things to say about Dr. Hopkins, the boys' father. "He's a warm neighbour. Whenever you pass by, he waves. He's very friendly," Ms. Newton said. She added: "They're just a nice, wholesome family. I don't understand how this has happened to them."

Dr. Hopkins is a dentist who started working out of his home about six months ago. Before that, he did emergency dental work at Sunnybrook and Women's College Health Sciences Centre, the hospital where his son was taken, said a parent whose children Dr. Hopkins coached. Dr. Hopkins coaches both the York Mills select midget junior hockey team, on which Cameron plays, and a house-league team. The parent said that the 16-year-old boys on the team would get rowdy at times, but "in all the years I've watched Rob coach, I've never seen him raise his voice. He's such a calming influence on those kids."

Tanner, too, was described as a typical teen who worked hard at his part-time job. He graduated last year from York Mills Collegiate Institute. "He's a nice, typical York Mills kid. Polite with adults," the parent said. "[He was] a good student, brought up by really good people to be a good person."

David Garard, who has been coaching the York Mills select midget senior hockey team for nine years, which involves 17-year-old boys, said: "The whole family within York Mills is devastated by this tragic loss. It's an unbelievable thing that could have happened. It just strikes so close to home and our hearts go out to Bob and his family." Tanner's slaying is the fourth in a rash of stabbings in Toronto over the past week, three of which involved teenage victims. Nabil Saleh, 19, was fatally stabbed early Saturday morning at the Swallow Lounge and Deli on College Street. Police said Mr. Saleh was stabbed in the heart after stepping into an argument to help his friend. He was taken to St. Michael's Hospital, where he later died.

A 26-year-old man was also stabbed early Saturday morning in a ninth-floor stairwell at 421 Markham Rd. Police said the man, whose name has not been released, underwent surgery to repair the stab wound to his abdomen and is in serious but stable condition. Police have no suspects in the case. The streak of stabbings started with the death of 16-year-old Andrew Stewart on Dec. 3. Mr. Stewart was chased and fatally stabbed by a group of 10 to 15 teenagers on Coxwell Avenue, steps away from East York Collegiate Institute, where he was a student. Police said they know the names of some members of that group, but no arrests have been made.

Stu Auty, president of the Canadian Safe School Network, said spontaneous conflicts have become more violent because knives and other weapons are more widely available and used than ever before. "You've got the possession of the weapon that's extremely serious, and that leads to an event that's totally tragic and not planned," Mr. Auty said. "Kids now just don't know what to expect from a conflict," Mr. Auty said. "You can see that minor stuff becomes major very quickly."
He said children are "soaked in violence through the media. "Kids will replay, in a spontaneous moment, what they've learned and seen in the movies." Peer pressure and group mentality also come into play. "When kids are challenged and there's a group attitude out there, that's a real problem." Mr. Auty said teens explain that they use knives and weapons for protection.


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