A known gang member was tracked down, shot and killed along with his 11-year-old son on Thursday while they were in a car parked outside an Edmonton fast-food restaurant, police say.
Acting superintendent Colin Derksen told reporters Friday that the boy was not caught in the line of fire but deliberately killed. A second boy, who was around the same age and a friend of the dead child, was also in the car.
“Thankfully, he was not harmed – physically, anyway,” Supt. Derksen said of the boy who escaped.
He said the two boys had just gone inside the A&W, which shares space with a Petro-Canada gas station, before the shooting.
Supt. Derksen said the lunch-hour shooting in the crowded suburban shopping plaza, with other businesses including a daycare, is the latest example of escalating gang violence in the city.
“The landscape has changed out there,” he said. “There’s no longer any respect for children, families or innocent citizens amongst our gangsters when they carry out violence to further their own interests.”
The dead boy’s name was not released, but his father was identified as 41-year-old Harpreet Uppal.
“Mr. Uppal was very well known to us, very high up in the gang drug world,” Supt. Derksen said. “We had worked very hard over the years to try to warn and give him opportunities to step out of that lifestyle, and keep him and his family safe.”
Mr. Uppal’s history with police dates back to at least 2012. Court documents refer to a search warrant that year for his Edmonton home, where officers found a loaded handgun, drug packaging material and $12,000 in cash. He was also scheduled to appear in court next spring on charges of possessing drugs for the purpose of trafficking and possessing body armour without a permit.
There have been previous attempts on Mr. Uppal’s life.
Police have said he was having dinner with his family in a restaurant two years ago when a man walked up to a window by his table and shot through the glass. Mr. Uppal was wounded, but nobody else was injured.
A police news release said Harsh Jindal, believed to be driving the getaway vehicle, later turned himself in and was charged with attempted murder. That charge and others were stayed Oct. 16.
His lawyer, Kristofer Advent, said in a statement his client was not involved in any way in the killings Thursday. Mr. Advent said Mr. Jindal has been out of the province since Oct. 30.
“He was nowhere near Edmonton on Nov. 9.”
The busy corner where the killings took place in the southeast quadrant of the city had returned to normal Friday. The only sign of the shooting was a teddy bear and a few flowers attached to a nearby light post.
Police are investigating a possible link between the shooting and a stolen, burned-out SUV found on a road nearby. The vehicle was unoccupied.
The motivation for the shooting – whether retribution or control – wasn’t immediately clear, said Supt. Derksen. The targeted nature of the shooting was.
“We absolutely believe (Mr. Uppal) was followed with the intention of finding him and ending his life. With the young boy, we don’t know yet. What we do know already is that once the shooter or shooters learned the son was there, they intentionally killed him.
“That is sick and twisted.”
Supt. Derksen said gang violence in public places has increased in Edmonton in recent years.
Officers have responded to 196 shootings so far this year, a 46 per cent increase over the same time last year.
While such shootings are almost always gang-related, Supt. Derksen said they are incredibly dangerous for public bystanders.
“We’re lucky we’re not reporting on additional deaths or injuries today.”
Still, Supt. Derksen said he didn’t want to create panic.
He said no arrests have yet been made. Officers were interviewing many people who witnessed the killings.
Mr. Uppal’s family is also “engaged” with police and sharing information, he said.
Alberta Premier Danielle Smith said she has been concerned about the rise in gun violence.
“With a heavy heart, I contemplate how it’s conceivable for a child to be killed in such a tragic manner like this,” she wrote on the social media platform X, formally known as Twitter.
“Our government supports the Edmonton police as they work to bring those responsible to justice.”