The man responsible for killing eight people in Edmonton’s worst mass killing in recent history has been identified by sources as 53-year-old Phu Lam.
Six adults, between ages 25 and 50, and two children under age 10 were found in two separate residences in Edmonton on Monday night.
Police spokesman Scott Pattison confirmed that the seven people found dead at a home in north Edmonton were shot and killed first. The shooter then went to a home in the Haddow neighbourhood of south Edmonton where he killed Cyndi Duong, 37.
Duong's body was discovered when police responded to a weapons complaint at 6:53 p.m. MT Monday. They went to the north Edmonton house at 8:28 p.m. to check on the welfare of a potentially suicidal man but found nothing unusual.
"According to family, the male seemed depressed and overly emotional," police Chief Rod Knecht said Tuesday. "The family was concerned that the male may be suicidal."
The bodies of three women, two men and boy and a girl were found at 12:23 a.m. after police received a call that convinced them to return to the home.
Lam’s body was found Tuesday morning at a restaurant in nearby Fort Saskatchewan. It appeared that he had committed suicide.
The names of the other victims have not been released. Autopsies will be performed on Thursday.
‘A lovable person’
Lily Lee, president of the Edmonton Viets Association, knew Duong, a mother of three, when they were teenage employees of a Swiss Chalet restaurant in west Edmonton.
"When I found out Cyndi, someone I knew — yeah, it's kind of emotional for our whole community right now," she said.
"She's a very bubbly, tiny girl. Cute. She had this contagious laugh about her. Always bubbly."
Pastor Thanh Le of the Vietnamese Alliance Church knew Duong well. Her family helped found the church in the 1980s and she was married there.
"Cyndi is a lovable person. You would like her the minute you meet her. She cares for people, cares for her family, cares for her church," he said.
Little is known about Lam and his background. Police have not revealed his relationship to the eight victims.
He is listed as the co-owner of the north Edmonton home where seven of the dead were found. Chau Tran, the owner of the VN Express, the restaurant where Lam was found dead, told CBC News on Wednesday that she was his former common-law spouse.
She said Lam was doing maintenance work at the restaurant and may have had a key. She said that Lam had remarried, but she didn’t know anything about his new family.
Police said Lam had a criminal record dating back to 1987, and used a stolen 9-mm handgun in what the police chief called "an extreme case of domestic violence."
"It was chaotic. It's horrific," Knecht said at a news conference Tuesday night. "This is a horrific event for the city … in my 39 years of policing, I've never seen anything like it."
He said the slayings were "planned and deliberate," and stressed there was no evidence of gang links.
A memorial of flowers and gifts outside that home was growing larger on Wednesday morning.
Neighbour Moe Assiff said he saw officers come out and talk to a woman sitting with a man in a white car outside the house.
"She just let out a hysterical scream. It was eerie," Assiff said. "She was screaming about her kids: 'My kids! The kids!,' grabbing her hair and trying to pull her hair out. The cops then ushered her down the road into a police cruiser."
The case will be made an "absolute priority" by the new Family Violence Death Review Committee, which reports to Alberta's minister of human services.
CEO Allen Benson confirmed that his committee will start reviewing the case as soon as police and the medical examiner complete their investigations
“I think a case like this would be something that not only what the minister would want but our review board would see as a priority given the number of people involved," he said.
Benson said the review will look at systemic issues that led to the violence and what could have been prevented. The reports are made public.
“We look at what agencies were involved, what interventions have been in place prior to the death occurring and what could have been done to prevent these things from happening," he said.
Knecht said there hasn't been a mass killing of this scale in Edmonton since at least 1956.
That year, John Etter Clark, a provincial politician who served as a member of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta for four years, killed his wife, son, three daughters and an employee of their family farm before taking his own life. Clark had been suffering from frequent nervous breakdowns in the years before the killings.
The gun used in the slayings this week was registered in British Columbia in 1997 and stolen from Surrey in 2006.
Knecht said Tuesday officers had gone to the north Edmonton home twice: once this year and once in November 2012, when a man was charged with domestic violence, sexual assault and uttering threats.
Knecht also explained why police didn't enter the north Edmonton home when police were first called there. He said officers walked around the house but couldn't get in.
“They looked in windows, they checked a door and they weren’t able to get a response," he said. "We can't just arbitrarily go into that residence."
Later, they received a call from someone which gave them grounds to enter the home. That's when they found the seven bodies.