A Toronto man who has been charged with lighting a TTC bus passenger on fire in what police have called a “hate-motivated” attempted murder made a brief court appearance Monday.
Tenzin Norbu, who is currently detained at the Toronto South Detention Centre, appeared briefly by video in an Ontario Court of Justice proceeding shortly after 2 p.m.
Wearing an orange jumpsuit that didn’t cover two sleeves of tattoos on his arms, Norbu, 33, politely refused the help of a Tibetan interpreter after tucking his blue surgical mask into his top-left pocket.
The decision on whether Norbu would be granted bail was delayed until Tuesday.
Norbu is accused of pouring a flammable liquid on a woman on a bus at Kipling Station, then igniting it.
The woman, who is in her 20s, was helped by TTC staff, bystanders, and first responders, before she was rushed by ambulance to hospital.
At the time of the incident, police said in a tweet the victim was suffering “critical burn-related injuries.”
According to a recording of a call obtained by the Star, a TTC employee called transit control to report the incident, describing the woman as conscious and breathing but suffering serious burns.
“There was a male that set the fire to the female,” the employee says.
Norbu is charged with attempted murder, assault with a weapon, common nuisance and mischief.
Police on Sunday said the case is being investigated by the Hate Crimes Unit as a “suspected hate-motivated offence.”
Pressed Monday, spokesperson Const. Laura Brabant declined to say what evidence leads investigators to believe the attack was hate-motivated.
“It is very disturbing when any person would randomly attack another individual, but to do so with the offence being hate-motivated in nature is not acceptable, and these actions will not be tolerated in our city,” Brabant wrote in an email.
“The public can be assured that the person responsible for this crime was promptly identified and arrested and is currently before the courts.”
In a statement Friday, CEO Rick Leary said the TTC is “shocked” by the attack. “Our thoughts are with the victim for a full recovery.”
Pressed Monday for further details about how the TTC is responding, a spokesperson said: “Any updates will have to come from the police.”
Discussions about Norbu’s bail and any evidence presented at Monday’s hearing are covered by a court-ordered publication ban.
The identity of his alleged victim is also subject to a publication ban.
The attack comes after a rash of violent incidents that have recently occurred on Toronto’s transit system. In April, unions representing the city’s transit workers called on the TTC to increase the number of officers patrolling its stations after a man was stabbed in the neck while standing on the platform at St. George station.
That stabbing took place just days after a 39-year-old woman was pushed onto the tracks at Bloor-Yonge station.
In the same month, a 21-year-old man was shot dead outside Sherbourne station in what police described as a random attack.
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