Edmonton mass killings 'extreme case of domestic violence,' police say
'It is a tragic day for Edmonton,' police Chief Rod Knecht tells news conference
The shooting deaths of six adults and two children in Edmonton were committed by a man known to police who used a stolen 9-mm handgun, police Chief Rod Knecht said in a news conference Tuesday night.
The victims were found in two separate residences in Edmonton on Monday night.
The man police believe is responsible was found dead by suicide in a restaurant in the nearby city of Fort Saskatchewan on Tuesday morning. Knecht said the man had a criminal record dating back to 1987.
"It appears to be an extreme case of domestic violence gone awry," he said, stressing there was no evidence of gang links. He said the slayings were planned and deliberate.
Police then received a call to check on the welfare of a man at a home at 83rd Street and 180 Avenue in north Edmonton.
"According to family, the male seemed depressed and overly emotional," Knecht said. "The family was concerned that the male may be suicidal."
When police arrived, the man wasn't there, Knecht said. Then at 12:23 a.m., police went back to the home and discovered the bodies of seven people: three women, two men and two children – a boy and a girl.
The adults found dead were between ages 25 and 50, with the children under age 10.
At 2:20 a.m., police went to a restaurant in Fort Saskatchewan where they found a vehicle matching the description of the one owned by the suicidal male. The SUV was the same vehicle seen in the south Edmonton neighbourhood on Monday night, and was missing from the north Edmonton home.
The man was found dead inside when police entered the restaurant at 8:45 a.m. Tuesday. Knecht said the man died in an apparent suicide. He said police are not looking for other suspects in the slayings.
Police have not described the relationships between the victims and the man who committed suicide. Knecht said this was the biggest mass murder in Edmonton since six people were slain in 1956.
The gun used in the slaying was registered in British Columbia in 1997 and stolen from Surrey in 2006. Knecht said the suspect had a business interest in the restaurant where he was found dead.
The suspect was known to Edmonton police. Knecht said officers had gone to the north Edmonton home twice: once this year, and once in November 2012, where 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.
Later, they received a call from someone which gave them grounds to enter the home. That's when they found the seven bodies.
"It was chaotic. It's horrific," Knecht said.
"This is a horrific event for the city … in my 39 years of policing, I've never seen anything like it."
Neighbours heard fighting
People in Fort Saskatchewan became aware of the police presence early Tuesday morning. The downtown core of the city northeast of Edmonton was closed. The area has reopened, but police tape remained around the VN Express Vietnamese and Chinese Restaurant.
Fort Saskatchewan resident Bonnie Peet first noticed police around 6 a.m.
“My whole road in front of my place was blocked off, so I knew something was going on and then it got lighter out ...and you see police going up and down the alleys," she said.
Another resident said that a helicopter could be heard circling overhead early Tuesday morning.
A woman who works at a restaurant across the street said she saw police drive a tactical unit through the restaurant door.
People who live next to the home in north Edmonton say a woman, a grandmother and two school-aged children lived there. The neighbours said they heard domestic arguments inside the home next door. Once they heard a man and woman fighting in the street.
"We knew the ex-husband didn't live there anymore," neighbour Murray Schermack said.
Resident Maria Melo said it's the kind of community where people say hi to one another.
In the Haddow community in south Edmonton, where the first person was killed, residents expressed concern for the children who lived in the home. The three children often played with others in the neighbourhood.
Police said they are in a safe place.
"We're all disturbed by it and wondering about how the family is doing," Frank Engley said.
RCMP are also investigating a death in an industrial area near Sherwood Park where a body was found in a burned-out vehicle on Tuesday morning. It does not appear to be related to the other crimes.