TORONTO - The family of a young man swarmed by about 20 attackers and beaten to death with baseball and cricket bats was still trying to absorb the tragedy on Monday.

Born in Sri Lanka, 22-year-old Kristian (Kristy) Thanapalan came to Canada from Norway as a young child with his mother, Ahileswary Thanapalan, and father, Thanapalan Tharmalingam.

He lived northwest of Toronto in Maple and belonged to a close-knit family, with 30 cousins and siblings Krishna Thanapalan, 25, and Krishanthy Thanapalan, 19.

Krishna heard the news of his brother's death Saturday, but still feels as though Kristian will come back. "Every morning I wake up, I feel like it was just a dream."

Thanapalan was a happy, outgoing person, Krishna said. He loved basketball, soccer and making his silver 2000 BMW look like his favourite car, a BMW M3. Only two days before the attack, he took the car out of the garage for the first time this season.

Thanapalan could get mad instantly but forgive just as fast, his brother said. His favourite saying was, "An eye for an eye and the whole world would go blind."

Thanapalan died of a blunt force injury to his head, police said Monday.

Toronto police Det.-Sgt. Savas Kyriacou said he and five other young men were swarmed early Saturday after they finished playing a late-night game of volleyball.

They had gathered earlier in the evening at an east-end park, where they bumped a volleyball around until sunset.

Wanting to continue the game, the group of friends moved to a lit field at a public school nearby.

Kyriacou said they formed a circle, keeping the volleyball up without nets. "It was just a bunch of friends getting together to spend an evening together."

Another group of 15 to 20 young men were playing baseball or cricket at a nearby baseball field. When the lights went out around 11 p.m., both games ended.

The two groups went to a parking lot, where Thanapalan and his friends continued playing volleyball and the others entered vehicles.

"During that time, we believe there was an exchange of words," Kyriacou said.

Police don't know what was said, but the vehicles left and returned a number of times to circle a nearby cul de sac.

As Thanapalan and his friends left the parking lot around 12:15 a.m., a group of about eight males approached them, Kyriacou said.

A second group of 10 to 15 others came from the cul de sac, along a path between the school and an apartment building. They carried baseball bats, cricket bats and beer bottles, among other weapons, Kyriacou said.

Thanapalan and his friends were surrounded but some of them managed to escape. Emergency crews later found Thanapalan beaten, lying on the cul de sac. He was taken to Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, where he died.

Some of his friends had minor injuries.

"Take a bit of testosterone, some bravado, throw in a bit of alcohol and sometimes you get that result," Kyriacou said, though police have not confirmed the motive for the attack.

Kyriacou says police are appealing to members of the Tamil-Canadian community to "do the right thing" and urged anyone with information to come forward.

Kyriacou appealed to one member of the attacking group in particular, a man in his mid-20s who tried to intervene and stop the attack.

Police haven't determined how or to what extent each person in the attacking groups was involved. They ranged in age from 16 to 25.

David Poopalapillai of the Canadian Tamil Congress said such violence is particularly difficult for the Tamil community because of political unrest in their homeland of Sri Lanka.

"On top of that, this is one of the safest countries on the planet and now it's happening here."

Thanapalan graduated from a biotechnology program at Centennial College last year and had been accepted to study biochemistry at York University this fall.