'Look out for each other,' says Toronto woman after stranger stabs her with needle downtown

Toronto police are investigating after a woman was stabbed with a needle in her lower back at Yonge and College streets on Sunday afternoon.  (Christopher Katsarov/The Canadian Press - image credit)
Toronto police are investigating after a woman was stabbed with a needle in her lower back at Yonge and College streets on Sunday afternoon. (Christopher Katsarov/The Canadian Press - image credit)

A Toronto woman is warning others to "look out for each other" after someone stabbed her in the back with a needle downtown.

Junlan Li, 29, told CBC Toronto on Monday it happened while she was doing something many people do daily in the city: she was waiting for the lights to change at the northwest corner of Yonge and College streets when someone randomly attacked her on Sunday at 3:15 p.m.

"I was on my way to the grocery store, just minding my own business, standing at the crosswalk, kind of just waiting for the light to turn. And then, as the traffic was going behind me, somebody bumps me on my lower right back," she said.

Li has reported the assault to police and posted about it on Reddit.

She said she looked at the person she thought was her attacker, who was behind her, but he seemed nondescript. Then a man coming from the other direction stopped her and said: "'This dude poked you. Are you okay? Like, did he take anything?'"

Li checked her wallet, pockets and coat and didn't see anything amiss. She thanked the man who informed her, whom she called a Good Samaritan, then went on her way. Halfway down the next block, she realized her back was hurting.

"It was just on fire. And then, I reached back around, felt on my back, and I realized I have like a pin prick on my lower back right where I was poked."

'Random attacks happen'

She said she turned right around and went to the nearest hospital, and after waiting about five hours in the emergency department, she was told that she has a puncture wound on her back and had a suspected needle stick.

The doctor did blood work and gave a list of things to do, including going to an infectious disease clinic, monitoring her symptoms and calling if the pain gets worse. She has an appointment at a clinic on Tuesday. In her Reddit post, which has generated more than 480 comments, she said may need to get a post-exposure prophylaxis to prevent HIV.

After an hour in the ER, she called the Toronto police non-emergency line. She waited to report the incident because she wanted to look after herself first. It took an hour and a half before she was able to talk to an officer.

Now, she would like other Toronto residents to be aware of what happened to her.

"It's something that you don't expect to happen ever, right? The fact that it happened was just kind of a weird moment for me," she said.

"I'm trained as a statistician and these things happen, right? Randomness. Random attacks happen and I don't want to freak anybody out, but at the same time, you know it doesn't hurt to be vigilant. Look out for each other."

Li is also urging everyone to make sure their tetanus and Hepatitis B shots are up to date. And she is grateful to the man who told her what happened.

Police have told her if they apprehend the suspect, the charge would be assault with a weapon.

Const. Cindy Chung, spokesperson for the Toronto Police Service, said in an email on Monday that investigators are still reviewing surveillance video.

"This is not a common incident. If this does happen to someone I would recommend that they report the incident to police and follow up with the hospital and complete any testing recommended to ensure their health and safety," Chung said.

According to Li, it's a random act of violence.

"As much as we don't like to think that it happens, sometimes it does," she said.

"And turns out this time, I was just the victim. And for me, I was lucky that someone stopped and told me. And I was able to get emergency care in a timely manner," she added.

And she has a message for everyone.

"Just be careful, right? And check."