Calling it “a tragic day for Edmonton,” Police Chief Rod Knecht listed eight victims in the city's worst-ever mass murder: four women, two men and two children under the age of 10 – one a boy, the other a girl.
A ninth death appears to have been the man responsible for one of the worst domestic killings in Canadian history. He took his own life on Tuesday, ending a horrific, 12-hour rampage that has created an outpouring of grief.
Police were left with a case that spans three crime scenes in two jurisdictions – Edmonton and nearby Fort Saskatchewan – linked by a deceased suspect identified as Phu Lam. Mr. Lam is listed as a co-owner of the north Edmonton residence where seven of the eight victims were found dead.
The man was “known to police” and involved with criminal gangs in the past, Chief Knecht told reporters, although there was no evidence of drugs or gangs in Monday’s slayings. The man had a criminal record stretching back to 1987, the chief said at a news conference late Tuesday night.
“It appears to be an extreme case of domestic violence gone awry,” the chief said. He called the killings “planned, deliberate and targeted.”
The weapon used in the murders, the Chief said, was a nine-millimetre handgun, legally registered in B.C. in 1997 and reported stolen in Surrey, B.C., in 2006.
Cyndi Duong, 37, was the first to die when a suspect entered her southwest Edmonton home at 6:52 p.m. MT Monday and used a firearm to kill her. Police said there were children home at the time of the shooting and that they were uninjured and safe.
Roughly two hours later, police were called to a home in northwest Edmonton by residents concerned about a man who was depressed and potentially suicidal. Officers checked the home but the man was gone.
Speaking at an earlier news conference, Chief Knecht said “further information” was received – he did not explain what that was – which sent police back to the northwest home.
Once inside, officers found seven bodies.
News of the mass murder has rocked the Vietnamese community, said Lily Le, who’s also the president of the Edmonton Viets Association. “We’re all very shaken up,” she said. “We’re trying to reach out and offer what we can.”
Ms. Le described the first victim, Ms. Duong, as “a sweet, sweet girl,” who worked with Ms. Lee about 17 years ago. “She worked hard, went to school, went to church.”
Even back then, when the women were in their teens, Ms. Duong was smitten with the man she would later marry, David Luu. The two would have three children, according to Ms. Le.
At the two-storey home in northwest Edmonton where seven died, neighbours spoke of Elvis, the eight-year-old boy who was “a good kid.”
Holly, who didn’t want her last name mentioned, said she and most of the neighbours waved to the couple and the grandmother, who also lived there and would watch over Elvis as he played and rode his bike.
The family had a limited grasp of English, she said. They also fought a lot, in full view.
“[The wife] would come running outside and drive around the block. It was hard to watch from a distance,” said Holly, who could hear the arguing from inside her home, nearly 100 metres away. “The neighbours would go outside just to make sure [the husband] wasn’t hitting her.”
Police had previously been called to the house on two occasions, Chief Knecht said. In one instance, a man had been arrested and charged with offences related to domestic violence, sexual assault and uttering threats.
The fighting in the home had an impact on the couple’s son. “The kid ran over one day and he was shaking,” said Holly. “Just shaking. He said he just wanted to play. I don’t know what had happened at home.”
Another neighbour, Bryan Salviar, who lives one door down, offered a similar story.
"My wife was here every day and she used to hear them fight,” he said. “Whenever they were fighting, and the grandmother was there, they’d go into the house.”
Mr. Salviar said Elvis “seemed to be alone often” after the fighting. “I’m shocked,” Mr. Salviar said, “especially because it was next door.”
Outside the home on Tuesday, witness Thanh Nguyen said the co-owner of the house has an ex-wife who owns a Fort Saskatchewan restaurant. The co-owner, now retired, also filed for bankruptcy in October.
According to Chief Knecht, the suspect had a “business interest” in the restaurant.
After the murders in the northwest part of the city, the suspect headed to the VN Express restaurant in Fort Saskatchewan.
A witness named Laurie, an employee at Aunty Sue’s Restaurant across from VN Express, told the media she saw the police, including a tactical team, a robot and a police dog outside the VN Express on Tuesday.
Officers yelled, “Come out with your hands up.” That was followed by a police vehicle then ramming into the front of the restaurant, she said.
Forensics officers entered the building and later in the day, the medical examiner’s office arrived and a body was removed on a stretcher.
By Tuesday evening, the front of the restaurant was covered in plywood. Inside, the wooden tables and chairs were where they normally would be. On the counter, the electronic cash register was still working. Outside, a single bouquet was left by the door.
Alberta Premier Jim Prentice issued a statement Tuesday saying he trusts the police investigation will provide the necessary answers.
“In this season of peace and goodwill, this act of violence is all the more difficult to comprehend,” Mr. Prentice said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of those involved at this very difficult time. May they find strength in knowing that Albertans share in their loss.”
With reports from Stephanie Chambers and Patrick White.Report Typo/Error
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