Innocent bystanders could have been harmed in 46% of Edmonton shootings in 2021

Click to play video: 'Innocent bystanders could have been harmed in 46% of Edmonton shootings in 2021'
Innocent bystanders could have been harmed in 46% of Edmonton shootings in 2021
Edmonton police released several videos of gun violence to the public on Thursday, saying of all the shootings that took place in Edmonton in 2021, nearly half had the potential for innocent bystanders to be harmed. Chris Chacon reports. – Mar 24, 2022

Editor’s note: Edmonton police originally stated the shooting in Clareview happened at 10 p.m. but later issued a correction to say it happened at 8 p.m. 

Of all the shootings that took place in Edmonton in 2021, police say nearly half had the potential for innocent bystanders to be harmed.

Amid concerns of recent gun violence in the city, the Edmonton Police Service released data Thursday which showed there were 150 “shooting occurrences” in the capital city last year.

Of those, the EPS said 69 — or 46 per cent — included situations where shots were fired into the air, in the direction of residences or vehicles, or in public and could have resulted in an innocent person being injured. Police said children were present or in the area for seven of the 69 incidents.

“The brazenness of these shootings is what’s concerning to us,” said Staff Sgt. Eric Stewart, who oversees the EPS firearms investigations unit and gang suppression team.

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“It may be a targeted event but what’s happening is individuals involved in these gun battles or gun crimes aren’t thinking about what’s happening on the other side of that person they’re targeting.”

Edmonton police released surveillance video of three separate brazen public shootings that have taken place in the last 16 months, all of which remain unsolved.

One video shows the inside and outside view of a shooting that took place at the Royal Pizza restaurant located in the area of 12 Avenue and 101 Street S.W. It happened on Oct. 8, 2021 and police say the shooting was targeted.

Click to play video: 'Security video of shooting at Royal Pizza in south Edmonton'
Security video of shooting at Royal Pizza in south Edmonton

The exterior view shows a man approach the window of the restaurant, directly outside a booth where several people are seated. From the inside, the video shows several shots flying through the window, shattering the glass.

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A couple of people crawl out of the booth and onto the ground.

At the time, police said one man who was eating dinner at the table with his family suffered serious, but non-life-threatening injuries. No one else was injured.

Another video shows an incident where a child is riding a scooter in a residential neighbourhood in the area of Clareview Road and 132A Avenue as two vehicles exchange multiple rounds of gunfire.

The shooting happened on July 23, 2021 at around 8 p.m. Police said two rounds went through nearby homes, several rounds were fired near a school and one round nearly struck a witness.

Click to play video: 'Evening shooting between two vehicles in northeast Edmonton’s Clareview area'
Evening shooting between two vehicles in northeast Edmonton’s Clareview area

The third video released by police shows a shooting on Anthony Henday Drive around 10:30 p.m. on Nov. 8, 2020. Police said a man was driving west near 91 Street when his dashcam captured two vehicles pass him; one on either side of his vehicle.

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Police said a black Dodge Durango and what is believed to be a silver Jeep Cherokee exchanged gunfire as they drove down the Henday. The Durango later ended up at a hospital with one injured man. Police said his injuries were not life-threatening.

“This type of reckless behaviour is an unacceptable threat to our community and we will remain relentless in our efforts to identify and charge those responsible,” said Supt. Shane Perka, with the EPS criminal investigations division.

Click to play video: 'Shootout between vehicles on Anthony Henday Drive caught on dash camera'
Shootout between vehicles on Anthony Henday Drive caught on dash camera

Police said they released the videos so the public can see exactly what’s happening in their communities. They hope people will come forward with information that will help officers solve the crimes.

“They’re pretty scary and there’s bystanders and children and people around and that’s where I go to the brazenness of this. Individuals involved in these crimes need to be held accountable,” Stewart said.

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“We have a good idea who’s involved, it’s just a matter of, how do we get to the end game and get those to court?”

Overall trends show that the number of shootings in 2021 was down from 2020, when 158 shootings took place. However, police said they seized more firearms in 2021 than in 2020. Last year, 1,633 firearms were seized by Edmonton police, compared to 1,125 in 2020.

“The reality is we’re seizing more guns so it’s reasonable to assume that there’s more guns on the street,” Perka said.

“It can happen anywhere. It’s just a matter of when two groups who have a beef with each other happen to cross paths, regardless of what part of the city they’re in, they have plans for each other.”

Of the firearms seized in 2021, 119 were found in vehicles.

The 150 shootings in Edmonton in 2021 can be broken down further as follows:

  • 108 (72%) are believed to be targeted, not random
  • 89 (59%) resulted in injuries or death
  • 71 (47%) had gang involvement
  • 69 (46%) had the potential for innocent bystanders to be harmed
  • 78 (52%) occurred on the street
  • 61 (40%) occurred at a residence
  • 7 (5%) occurred at an unknown location
  • 4 (3%) occurred at a business

So far this year, there have been 29 shootings in Edmonton. Of those, 10 happened in January, 10 happened in February and there have been nine this month, as of March 23.

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Where are the guns coming from and what’s being done to reduce gun violence?

Police say gun crime and the violence associated with it are increasing trends not just in Edmonton, but across Canada and in the United States.

When it comes to how the guns are getting onto Edmonton streets, Stewart said patterns in Alberta show a lot of the firearms are domestically trafficked.

While parts of eastern Canada see guns coming in from across the American border, Stewart said that’s not happening as frequently in Alberta.

He said straw purchasers are leading to an increase of guns in the city. This is when a person with a legal firearms licence gets involved in criminal groups or activities and their firearms licence is used to purchase firearms for organized crime groups or gangs.

Another way people are getting their hands on guns is through residential and business break-ins, Stewart explained.

“Criminal activity, drug dealing — they use these guns for a purpose,” Stewart said.

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In addition to the EPS firearms investigation unit, a firearms examination unit was created in 2011. The unit processes firearm evidence and performs ballistic analysis that helps link guns to crimes.

Officers work with local, provincial and national law enforcement partners to find linkages between shootings and those responsible for them.

In the first year of operation, the firearms examination unit provided leads and linkages to 39 different investigations, Perka said.

“Firearms investigations are complex and resource-intensive, requiring sophisticated investigative techniques and subject matter experts and we continue to build that expertise in house, which allows us to link and solve more shootings in a timely fashion,” he said.

“Through intelligence and analysis, we’ve enhanced our ability to identify trends and in some cases, prevent targeted acts of violence.”

Perka said the EPS is working on short-, medium- and long-term gun and gang violence reduction strategies focused on prevention, suppression and investigation of gun crime and gang violence.

“To those involved in gun or gang violence, enough is enough,” he said. “Whatever your intentions are, take a moment to consider the unintended consequences of your actions and potential to harm innocent people.”

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