Daughter of Chinatown homicide victim pleads with city councillors to make area safer
'Maybe if things had been different in Chinatown, my father could still be with us today'
The daughter of a man killed in an unprovoked attack last week at an Edmonton autobody shop hopes the deaths of her father and another man will serve as a catalyst for change in the city's Chinatown district.
Hung Trang, 64, was found injured outside Albert's Auto Body, where he worked, on the afternoon of May 18. Trang died in hospital the next day. An autopsy found he died of blunt force injuries to his head.
Christina Trang, Trang's eldest daughter, cried Tuesday as she implored city councillors to make Chinatown safer for residents and business owners.
Trang was among hundreds of Chinatown residents and business owners who flooded council chambers to call for increased police presence in the inner-city neighbourhood following the killings of her father and Ban Phuc Hoang, 61.
A 36-year-old man has been charged with two counts of second-degree murder.
Trang said the senseless killings of her father and Hoang have shaken her confidence in the city's ability to maintain public safety in Chinatown.
The neighbourhood has struggled with disorder and crime for years and has a high concentration of people experiencing homelessness.
"Maybe if things had been different in Chinatown, my father could still be with us today," Trang told city councillors, her voice breaking.
"How do you feel the situation in Chinatown currently is acceptable? When was the last time any of you stepped foot into that place?"
Mayor Amarjeet Sohi expressed condolences to the families of the victims and acknowledged the trauma experienced by the community.
Trang said the peaceful Chinatown that her father knew as a young man no longer exists.
Many residents and business owners no longer feel safe walking the streets, she said.
She said her father came to Canada to build her a better life. He was looking forward to retirement later this year. Now, her family is planning his funeral.
"I am here today to honour the memory of my dad, and if there was one thing that he would hope for now [it would be] that his death can open up everyone's eyes to see how out of control things are there now."
City council convened Tuesday morning to discuss several agenda items, including its safety community and well-being strategy, but councillors soon voted to break with protocol and hear from a flood of public speakers on safety concerns.
Trang was assaulted inside the auto body shop on 98th Street shortly before 4 p.m. last Wednesday.
Moments after officers arrived, police were dispatched to second violent assault about a block away, at Universal Electronics & Video Inc.
Hoang died at the second scene. An autopsy confirmed he died of blunt force injuries to the head and neck.
Justin Bone, 36, was arrested at the scene of the assault on Trang and has been charged with two counts of second-degree murder. Bone has an extensive criminal record.
Police said neither victim knew Bone.
Hon Leong said members of the Hoang family are struggling with the violent and senseless way he died.
"Ban's wife said, 'I could deal with it if he died of natural causes but he didn't. He was murdered in a despicable and undignified manner,'" Leong, speaking on behalf of the family, told city councillors.
The city owes the family — and the community — answers, he said.
"Ban knew everyone and everyone knew Ban," Leong said. "Not having him around is an incomprehensible loss."
Born in Vietnam, Hoang came to Canada from a refugee camp in 1980. He later celebrated his arrival date in Canada as his "birthday."
He worked as a dishwasher, photographer, tank tester and janitor — often putting in 16-hour days — before getting into the records and electronics business, Leong said.
He sponsored relatives to come to Canada and worked hard to feed his family, Leong said.
"What a great man, but what a terrible way to die."
'We need help'
Phong Luu, who owns Kim Fat Market, told council that Chinatown has been in distress for more than a decade.
The neighbourhood is increasingly dangerous but the community's pleas for help have not been heeded, he said.
"It seems like every time our community speaks up or needs help, we're not heard," he said.
"We need help. We need help now."
Council approved a new community safety and well-being strategy Tuesday afternoon and shifted millions of dollars previously intended for Edmonton police to ten social initiatives.
An amendment to that motion from Coun. Jennifer Rice passed 9-4, earmarking $300,000 for the city manager from the 2022 council contingency fund to address "the immediate needs of Chinatown."
Administration plans to meet with community members to determine how best to spend the money.
Drug use, crime, vandalism among concerns
Last week, after the killings and a series of other violent crimes in Edmonton's core, the Edmonton Police Service promised to increase enforcement in the downtown area, including Chinatown.
Chief Dale McFee told a police commission meeting that officers would be pulled from other divisions to increase patrols.
In an interview Monday, Wen Wang, executive director of the Chinatown and Area Business Association, said the homicides have left the community shaken.
Rampant drug use, petty crime and vandalism have plagued the area for years, he said.
COVID-19 made things worse, as the number of people experiencing homelessness and addiction increased, he said.
Private security officers patrol the neighbourhood, but it's not enough, Wang said.
The patrols, paid for by the business association and the Chinatown Transformation Collaborative Society, have been deployed in the area for two years.
Many businesses are planning to leave for good, he said.
"These tragedies could potentially be prevented," Wang said. "Whatever it takes. Because who else can protect Chinatown?
"Nobody wants to see another case or another killing in Chinatown. It's too much."
With files from Natasha Riebe