Dozens of university students crowded a Toronto courthouse Wednesday as a man accused of dumping liquefied feces on strangers at two campus libraries and a downtown sidewalk had his bail hearing adjourned until next week.
Samuel Opoku, 23, made a brief appearance to face five counts each of assault with a weapon and mischief related to three alleged attacks, spending much of the time hunched in the prisoner’s box and looking straight down.
The case had to be moved to a larger courtroom to accommodate throngs of onlookers — many of them students — who blocked a courthouse hallway as they vied for one of the few seats in the room where bail hearings usually take place.
“There were students from Ryerson, from U of T, York. It was interesting how we kind of united on this,” said Ruth Masuka, a second-year U of T student who waited upwards of four hours for Opoku to appear.
The students bonded over the fear that they might have been the next victim, she said, noting that tensions were already high due to impending exams.
“Every space is unsafe. It was a very public setting,” Masuka said. “It’s just a recipe for a scary energy.”
Felipe Santos, a recent grad who still spends a lot of time on the University of Toronto campus that was the scene of one attack, said most people who turned up for the hearing were “morbidly curious.”
“I felt a bit of the fear that everybody felt, so I was here out of curiosity of what would bring somebody to do this kind of thing,” said Santos.
Toronto police allege a man wearing a yellow construction hat threw liquefied fecal matter on a woman and a young person on Friday at U of T’s John P. Robarts Research Library.
The same suspect is believed to have attacked a man and a woman at York University’s Scott Library on Sunday, and a woman at a downtown intersection near U of T on Monday night.
Outside court, Opoku’s lawyer Jordan Weisz noted there was little he could share due to a publication ban protecting information presented during a bail hearing, but said he understands the degree of interest in the case.
“As things progress, I’ll certainly be prepared and willing to provide information to the public, who understandably is concerned and interested to get the full story,” he said. ”Obviously the public doesn’t have the full story at this point.”
Asked whether his client had any underlying mental health issues, Weisz noted “the nature of the allegations suggests that,” but declined to provide more details other than to say Opoku was shocked by the allegations against him.
“He was in shock, I think that’s probably a fair characterization,” he said. ”Understandably, to say the least, it’s not a pleasant situation to be sitting in a courtroom with the public scrutiny that he’s currently having to endure.”
Nicole Thompson , The Canadian Press