Edmonton

South Edmonton armed robberies leave 2 Mac's workers dead

A 13-year-old is one of three suspects arrested in the slaying of two Mac's Convenience Stores employees in a pair of armed robberies in south Edmonton early Friday morning.

'These were extreme acts of violence. Absolutely unnecessary, gratuitous and evil,' police chief says

Two different convenience store robberies were connected. The overnight armed robberies led to two deaths. 1:21

A 13-year-old is one of three suspects arrested in the slaying of two Mac's Convenience Stores employees in a pair of armed robberies in south Edmonton early Friday morning.

Police Chief Rod Knecht said two men, aged 24 and 26, were also arrested. Charges are pending against all three suspects. Knecht said all three have criminal records and were prohibited from owning firearms. 

"These were extreme acts of violence," Knecht said. "I talked to investigators before I came in here, and they say it was over-the-top violence. Absolutely unnecessary, gratuitous, evil."

Karanpal Singh Bhangu, 35, was named as one of the victims. The other man, aged 41, will not be named until his next of kin are notified. 

The unnamed man was killed in the shooting at the Mac's store at 108th Street and 61st Avenue. Police were called to the scene just before 3:45 a.m. MT on Friday after a delivery man followed a trail of blood and found a man dead in the back. 

Fifteen minutes earlier, police had been called to an armed robbery at another Mac's store at 32nd Avenue and 82nd Street in the Mill Woods neighbourhood, where Bhangu worked.

A panic alarm was set off in the store. After police failed to reach anyone at the store after making three phone calls each one minute apart, a car was sent to the location.

Edmonton police Chief Rod Knecht said the two slain men were innocent workers on the overnight shift. (CBC )

Bhangu was found in medical distress by an officer. Another officer with paramedic training arrived at the scene and both men administered CPR. 

Bhangu was transported to hospital and later died from a gunshot wound to the stomach.

After learning about the two robberies and shootings, police officers were sent to Mac's stores across the city to check on the welfare of employees, Knecht said. 

The suspects were found in a Honda Element believed stolen from Strathcona County, east of Edmonton. They were close to a third Mac's Convenience Store in the city's Callingwood neighbourhood when they were approached by police. 

The suspects fled in the vehicle, which police chased down the Whitemud Drive freeway. The suspects were arrested without incident after the vehicle crashed into an overpass at Terwillegar Drive. 

Knecht said the suspects appeared to have been seeking small amounts of money in each case. 

"From the video evidence we have seen, it was clear neither of the victims offered any resistance to the robbers and posed no threat to them," he said.

"This was a barbaric and gratuitous act of violence upon two innocent persons resulting in a senseless loss of life."

One victim a newcomer from India 

"This is a sad day in the history of Mac's," said Bonnie Birollo, the Western Canada vice-president of operations.

"My heart aches for the many lives impacted by this tragedy and especially for the families of the  two victims. We are doing all we can to support our people and to reach out to those in need."

Chandan Boparai, the wife of the owner of the Mill Woods Mac's store, said the person gunned down on the job at the store had been working there for a little more than a month.

Boparai said the young man came to Edmonton in August from India with his wife and young son.

Tracy Browning, who works as a waitress at a pub in the same strip mall, laid flowers at the scene.

Browning, who works the late shift, said that every night she saw the young man who was shot.

"He's the nightshift guy and he's so sweet, so kind," she said. "Always smiling. Always talking to everybody in there.

"I feel terrible for his family."

'Nowadays you'll get shot for $5'

At the other Mac's crime scene, neighbour Norman Magnan said he was still in shock. 

He said he thought he heard a gunshot overnight, but then decided it might have been a dream until he woke up and heard the morning news.

Magnan, who has lived in the normally quiet southside neighbourhood since 1989, said he never would have expected this kind of violence so close to home.  

"Nowadays you'll get shot for $5," he said. "That's the sad part. I don't like the way the world is going, personally."

(CBC/Google Maps )

Outside the Mill Woods Mac's, two police officers searched the alley behind the store early Friday morning and placed orange cones on the ground before stringing yellow crime scene tape at either end.

Bernie Abrams said he has lived in the Mill Woods neighbourhood for five years and often stopped in at the Mac's. He said the people who worked at the store were "very nice" to customers.

"It's sad," Abrams said. "I mean take the money, but why kill somebody? It doesn't make sense."

Gursharan Buttar, who hosts a Sikh radio program, said the store is owned by someone from the South Asian community.

"The community is shocked to learn what happened last night. It's senseless."