Edmonton mayor demands 2 probes into police actions in lead-up to Chinatown killings

Edmonton's mayor is demanding that Alberta's solicitor general and the city's police commission conduct reviews into actions by police before the arrest of a repeat offender for two killings in Chinatown.

'This situation was not a one-off, or a mistake,' says Amarjeet Sohi

RCMP released man accused of 2 Edmonton homicides in violation of bail

1 year ago
Duration 2:06
A CBC investigation has found that a man charged with two homicides in Edmonton's Chinatown was brought to the city by RCMP officers, in violation of his bail conditions.

Editor's note:

On June 16, the Edmonton Police Service issued a correction to a statement it had provided to CBC News on June 9 concerning Justin Bone.

In the June 9 statement, EPS said its officers "interacted with Mr. Bone" on May 15 and that he "was advised to abide by the balance of his ordered conditions, and to discuss any changes with his probation officer."

On June 16, EPS corrected its earlier statement and said Edmonton police received a call from a complainant about Bone, and evaluated the situation based on information provided by RCMP, but "did not interact with Mr. Bone."

At a meeting of the Edmonton Police Commission on June 16, police Chief Dale McFee addressed the correction and said EPS is examining how it made the communications error.

Edmonton's mayor is demanding that Alberta's solicitor general and the city's police commission conduct reviews into actions by police in the days before two men were beaten to death in the Chinatown district.

Amarjeet Sohi's calls for the two reviews came Friday, after a CBC News investigation revealed that Alberta RCMP released an offender into the city, three days before he was arrested in the beating deaths.

The accused, Justin Bone, was dropped off in west Edmonton on May 15 by Parkland RCMP officers who had picked him up in Alberta Beach, even though bail conditions prohibited him from being in Edmonton unsupervised.

Edmonton Police Service officers spoke to Bone the same day he was dropped off in Edmonton by RCMP. The city police officers did not detain Bone because "no criminal offence was observed," EPS said.

Bone is now charged with two counts of second-degree murder in the May 18 killings of Hung Trang, 64, and Ban Phuc Hoang, 61.

Sohi characterized the matter Friday as a failure of the justice system and of policing in Alberta. He said he and his colleagues on city council were devastated to learn of the events.

A man with a serious look on his face stands inside a building, wearing a suit and a pink tie.
Edmonton Mayor Amarjeet Sohi wants Alberta's solicitor general and the Edmonton Police Commission to investigate police actions in the days before two men were beaten to death in the city's Chinatown district. (Sam Martin/CBC)

"I strongly request the solicitor general conduct a comprehensive review to get to the bottom of this situation and help close the gaps in the system to ensure this never happens again," Sohi said in a statement.

"I also strongly request the solicitor general immediately stop the practice of allowing people in correctional facilities to be released into houselessness without a plan of support.

"This situation was not a one-off, or a mistake — we have heard this from community members over and over again. People are being dropped off into our community next to social services without any plan or accountability."

Sohi said he wants the Edmonton Police Commission to conduct "a fulsome investigation into what led to this failure to keep Edmontonians safe and whether it reflects any systemic practices."

Justin Bone, 36, is charged with two counts of second degree murder in the killings. (Justin Bone/Facebook)

Sohi said the details of the case are devastating and demonstrate a "disturbing lack of co-ordination" in the correctional system.

"It also demonstrates that Edmonton is a hub for services for northern and central Alberta, and our system is beyond capacity and unable to handle helping individuals who desperately need it," he said.

"The RCMP released this individual into a system that they knew was already over capacity, and they left him there. That is not right."

The Alberta RCMP said Thursday that it has launched a code of conduct review into its officers' actions.

In an additional statement Friday, the RCMP provided more details.

"The review will examine the decisions officers made; the operational policies and procedures currently in place that guide decisions like these; any gaps in support systems; and how we co-ordinate our responses with partner agencies when there are a multitude of social and judicial factors involved," the statement said.

"The Alberta RCMP is keenly aware that not all matters police officers respond to require a police response alone. Dynamic and complex calls for service, often involving mental health, addictions and repeat incarceration, require co-ordinated, multi-agency responses that can better address these social issues."

Ban Phuc Hoang, 61, was a longtime resident of Edmonton's Chinatown district where he owned and operated an electronics store. (Submitted by Hoang family)

Trang was beaten at an autobody shop on 98th Street; Hoang was assaulted inside his electronics store on the same street.

The killings have sparked outrage over high rates of crime in Chinatown, which has struggled with disorder for years. 

Jolie Hoang, Hoang's daughter, said she feels betrayed by both the RCMP and EPS.

"I feel helpless. I feel so defeated," she said in an interview.  "I don't know who to trust any more."

Hoang said she can't fathom why police didn't detain Bone. The responding RCMP officers failed in their duty to protect the public, she said. 

"As an officer, you're supposed to serve and protect," she said through tears.

'A very, very high price'

Christina Trang, Hung Trang's eldest daughter, echoed those calls. She said her family was already struggling with the senseless way her father died.

Learning of Bone's interactions with police in the days leading up the killings has added a gutting frustration to that grief, she said.

She questions why Bone was released without ramifications for his alleged threats. She wants answers from RCMP and city police, and clarity on police protocols for the release of parolees.

"For RCMP just to drop him off in Edmonton where he wasn't supposed to be, it's a complete distrust in the justice system," she said.

Hung Trang, 64, was had worked at an autobody shop in Chinatown for more than 30 years and planned to retire later this year. (Submitted by Christina Trang)

RCMP said that on May 15, officers from the Parkland detachment responded to a complaint that Bone was uttering threats at a home in Alberta Beach where he had been staying after his release in late April from the Edmonton Remand Centre. 

According to his bail conditions, Bone was ordered to live at the house in Alberta Beach while he awaited a bed at a recovery facility in Edmonton.

But on May 15, Bone allegedly threatened the man he was staying with, prompting the homeowner to tell police he wanted Bone out of the house.

Officers determined that the situation did not meet the threshold for charges, Parkland RCMP Insp. Mike Lokken said in a statement to CBC News Thursday.

RCMP tried, without success, to contact Bone's probation officer. The RCMP officers then drove Bone into west Edmonton and left him there unsupervised, with the expectation he would access services in the area.

Three days later he was arrested near the scene of the homicides in Chinatown.

The RCMP contacted the director of law enforcement about matter on June 7. The director decided the matter did not meet the threshold for an external review as set out in Alberta's Police Act. 

In statement Friday, a spokesperson for Alberta Justice and Solicitor General said that while bail decisions are made by the courts, correctional services caseworkers work with inmates before their release to ensure they are housed and supported.

"While correctional services staff cannot compel an inmate to engage or contribute in the release planning process, all efforts and are made both by the correctional services staff and partnering community agencies to ensure an inmate is not released on to the street," the statement said.


Wallis Snowdon is a journalist with CBC Edmonton focused on bringing stories to the website and the airwaves. Originally from New Brunswick, Wallis has reported in communities across Canada, from Halifax to Fort McMurray. She previously worked as a digital and current affairs producer with CBC Radio in Edmonton. Share your stories with Wallis at wallis.snowdon@cbc.ca.