Edmonton·CBC Investigates

Accused in Chinatown homicides was dropped off in Edmonton by RCMP 3 days before killings

Days before Hung Trang and Ban Phuc Hoang were fatally beaten May 18 in Edmonton’s Chinatown, Justin Bone — now accused in both homicides — was dropped off in the city by RCMP officers. A man who knows Bone compares the RCMP’s actions to “a starlight ride in reverse.”

Bail conditions prohibited Justin Bone from being in city unsupervised

Days before Hung Trang and Ban Phuc Hoang were fatally beaten in Edmonton’s Chinatown, Justin Bone — now accused in both homicides — was dropped off in the city by RCMP officers. (Gabriela Panza-Beltrandi/CBC)

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.

Three days before two men were fatally beaten last month in Edmonton's Chinatown, a man now accused in both homicides was dropped off in the city by RCMP officers, CBC News has learned.

RCMP officers with the Parkland detachment dropped off Justin Bone in west Edmonton on May 15, even though bail conditions prohibited him from being in Edmonton unsupervised.

Edmonton Police Service officers spoke to Bone later the same day but didn't detain him because "no criminal offence was observed," EPS said in a statement Thursday.

Bone, 36, was arrested May 18 in the killings of 64-year-old Hung Trang and 61-year-old Ban Phuc Hoang.

He is charged with two counts of second-degree murder. Trang was beaten at an autobody shop and Hoang was assaulted inside his electronics store on the same street.

The killings have sparked outrage over high rates of crime in Chinatown and prompted calls to halt the release of incarcerated offenders into Edmonton's core.

In late May, referencing the homicides, Alberta Justice Minister Tyler Shandro used his power under the Police Act to demand a report from the City of Edmonton on what is being done to get crime in the city's core under control. 

On Thursday, Mayor Amarjeet Sohi outlined a comprehensive safety plan. Sohi said the city plans to urge the government to stop releasing offenders from provincial corrections facilities onto the streets of Edmonton.

'A starlight ride in reverse'

Now, a family friend who had been housing Bone in Alberta Beach, 70 kilometres northwest of Edmonton, accuses RCMP and Edmonton police of ignoring his warnings about the danger Bone could pose to public safety.

"This is like a starlight ride in reverse," the man said in an interview, referencing a widely condemned police practice, which came to light in Saskatchewan years ago, in which officers picked up Indigenous people and dropped them off in remote rural areas.

"You drop them off in the middle of the city and made sure it was a City of Edmonton problem." 

CBC has agreed to not identify the man. As mandated by the courts, Bone was living with him while out on bail.

Court documents show Bone, a repeat offender, was released from the Edmonton Remand Centre on April 26, 22 days before the killings.

Charged in a break-and-enter, he was granted bail under strict conditions including a curfew and a weapons ban. He was prohibited from consuming or possessing drugs or alcohol.

He was ordered to attend a 90-day treatment program in Edmonton and told to live in Alberta Beach when not in treatment.

Bail conditions prohibited Bone from being in Edmonton except for attendance at court, meetings with his lawyer, medical appointments or when in the company of the family friend from Alberta Beach, unless approved in advance by his bail supervisor.

RCMP said that on May 15, officers from the Parkland detachment responded to a complaint that Bone was uttering threats at the home in Alberta Beach. The homeowner told police he wanted Bone out of the house.

After consulting with the detachment's domestic violence co-ordinator, 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 to contact Bone's probation officer to discuss "alternative arrangements" but couldn't reach the probation officer, the statement said.

The RCMP officers drove Bone into the city and left him unsupervised.

"Officers, in consultation with their supervisor, determined the best course of action would be to take Mr. Bone to an area where supports and services were available to him, and he was dropped off near a social services hub in the west end of Edmonton, so he could easily access those services," Lokken said in the statement.

Lokken said the officers notified Edmonton police of their actions.

In a separate statement Thursday, an EPS spokesperson said city police officers spoke to Bone that day after someone called them about him.

"Officers evaluated how he came to be in Edmonton, and given no criminal offence was observed, officers could not lawfully detain him," EPS said in its statement.

"He was advised to abide by the balance of his ordered conditions, and to discuss any changes with his probation officer."

RCMP reached Bone's probation officer the following day, on May 16. "Officers were able to confirm that communication had occurred between Mr. Bone and his probation officer, and that Mr. Bone was working with his probation officer to get supports he needed," the RCMP statement said.

Three days later, Bone was arrested soon after the killings of Trang and Hoang.

RCMP said a code of conduct review into the officers' actions was ordered on Monday of this week.

RCMP also said that on Tuesday, they notified Alberta's director of law enforcement, who determined that a review should remain with the Alberta RCMP.

The Alberta Beach homeowner said Bone was volatile and delusional and should have never been released in Edmonton without support or a place to stay.

"I told the RCMP, I told the Edmonton city police that he was loose, that he was mentally ill, that he was melting down and that there was a problem and he needed to be apprehended," he said. 

"Three different entities in the justice system. And all three of them failed not only me, but Justin himself. And those two innocent people who died."

Through his lawyer, Bone declined to comment on the case or say why he was in Chinatown on the day of his arrest.

The Alberta Beach man said he felt compelled to help Bone. He had been roommates with Bone's late uncle and has known the family for decades.

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

Bone needed a place to stay while he waited for a bed at the recovery centre he was ordered to attend.

The facility, facing a backlog of patients, is not currently accepting direct transfers from correctional facilities.

But the situation soon grew volatile. The man said Bone was struggling with his addictions and a change to his medication.

Bone began abusing drugs and alcohol and demanding money.

The homeowner said that on May 15, Bone threatened him after asking for money and not getting it.

The man knew an RCMP traffic stop had been set up nearby. He drove there to ask officers for help.

"Honest to God, I thought I was going to die," he told CBC.

Later the same day, the man went to the Parkland RCMP detachment to inquire about Bone's whereabouts. He also asked about filing a restraining order, he said.

He said the arresting officer told him that Bone had been dropped off in the city.

"I said, 'Thanks very much, now I have to live in fear,'" the man said. "He just shook his head."

The man said that within hours after he spoke to RCMP at the detachment, Bone was calling him, demanding to be picked up from Edmonton's inner city.

He said he then phoned Edmonton police, telling an officer that Bone was in the city and offering details on his whereabouts in the hopes he would be detained.

He said an EPS officer told him Bone was not breaking any rules since it was RCMP who had dropped him off in the city.

He said he made a similar call to Bone's probation officer on May 16. CBC News spoke with the probation officer but she declined comment. Alberta Justice has not responded to questions about the case from CBC News.

The man has since filed a restraining order against Bone. He said he remains haunted by the killings.

Bone remains in custody, awaiting his next court date on June 17.

Court documents show he has a long criminal record, with convictions dating back to 2005.

The documents portray a man with a violent and deeply troubled personal history who has spent most of his adult life in and out of incarceration. His previous convictions include sexual interference, criminal mischief and assaults.

In 2018, Bone was convicted of two counts of sexual interference involving a minor for crimes dating back to a period between January 2012 and December 2014.

A troubled past

A Gladue report tied to the conviction shows Bone had a troubled upbringing. Gladue reports explain an Indigenous person's family and community history to the courts.

The report details how Bone, born in Lac La Biche, Alta., was a victim of domestic violence, physical and sexual assault throughout his childhood. His family, members of Papaschase First Nation, struggled with substance abuse and homelessness.

The family moved often, allegedly to avoid detection from child welfare authorities, the report says. Bone spent much of his teen years in group homes. 

He took his first drink at six and was using marijuana and alcohol regularly by 14. He later developed an addiction to methamphetamines, according to the Gladue report.

The man who was providing Bone a place to live in Alberta Beach said Bone needed mental health intervention years ago but continued to slip through the cracks.

"Years ago, he should have had a mental health bed, not a prison cell," the man said.

"There's nothing more I can do for him. It's not the same person that I used to know." 

The killings have sparked outrage over high rates of crime in Chinatown and prompted calls to halt the release of offenders into Edmonton's core. (Nathan Gross/CBC)

Trang's daughter Christina Trang said Thursday she was sickened to learn about Bone's interactions with police.

She said she can't fathom why he was dropped off in the city. She said RCMP and police have broken the public trust.

"A lot of people need to answer for their actions," she said. "This whole situation could have been prevented and the price to pay on this, for my family, it's too high."


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.