Editor’s note: This story has been updated with a correction from the Edmonton Police Service regarding its officer’s involvement once Bone was brought to the city.
The man accused of killing two people in Chinatown was dropped off in Edmonton after being kicked out of the home he had been living in west of the city, according to Alberta RCMP and the Edmonton Police Service.
Statements from RCMP, Edmonton police, Alberta Justice and the city’s mayor paint a picture of the events leading up to the tragedy last month in the city’s core, as first reported by the CBC.
RCMP said on Sunday, May 15, officers from the Parkland County detachment responded to a complaint of threats at a home in Alberta Beach, allegedly involving Justin Bone — the man accused in the deaths.
Police responded, heard both side, and after speak with the detachment’s domestic violence coordinator, determined the situation didn’t meet the threshold for charges.
Despite that, RCMP said the homeowner stated Bone could no longer stay at their home.
“As Mr. Bone was under conditions not to travel into Edmonton without being under escort of the Alberta Beach homeowner, RCMP officers attempted to contact Mr. Bone’s probation officer to discuss alternate arrangements, but they could not be reached,” said a statement dated Thursday from Insp. Mike Lokken, the officer in charge of the Parkland RCMP detachment.
RCMP said the responding officers consulted with their supervisor and decided the best move was to bring Bone to a place where supports and services were available.
The decision was made to drop Bone off near a social services hub in the west end of Edmonton and notify city police, RCMP said.
EPS spokesperson Landis Reichle confirmed that happened.
EPS said it was alerted that a “male subject with conditions not to be in Edmonton” was being transported into the city by the RCMP.
Officers got a call from a complainant and on June 10, an initial statement from EPS said police spoke with Bone, discovering how he arrived in Edmonton and advising him to abide by his conditions.
Reichle said because no criminal offence was observed, they could not lawfully detain him.
But in an update on June 16, Edmonton police issued a correction and said a fluid review of the events found EPS officers in fact, did not interact with Bone on the day he was brought to the city.
“We are now aware that after receiving a call from a complainant, EPS officers evaluated the situation based on the information provided by the RCMP. As no criminal offense had been reported and EPS officers could not arrest Mr. Bone for being in Edmonton, EPS officers concluded the call and did not interact with Mr. Bone,” the statement from EPS Corporate Communications said.
Lokken said RCMP were able to get a hold of Bone’s probation officer the next day: Monday, May 16.
RCMP confirmed Bone and his PO were in contact and working to get the supports he needed, the statement said.
Bone was arrested two days later on May 18, after two men in their 60s were killed at businesses in central Edmonton’s Chinatown area.
Police initially responded to one attack at an auto body shop near 106 Avenue and 98 Street, before quickly discovering another man had also been hurt a block away.
Anthony Hai, the owner of Albert’s Auto Body, told Global News a stranger came into the shop and was asked to leave.
But then, Hai realized his employee, 64-year-old Hung Trang, had already been hurt in the corner of the building and other workers had called 911.
Trang was taken to hospital in serious, life-threatening condition but he died the next day.
While investigating the attack at the auto body shop attack, police were made aware of another incident a block south, at 105 Avenue and 98 Street.
When officers got there, another injured man was found. EMS responded and the 61-year-old man was pronounced dead at the scene.
Edmonton police said an autopsy determined Ban Phuc Hoang, 61, died of blunt force injuries to the head and neck and the manner of death is homicide.
Bone, 36, has been charged with second-degree murder and robbery in relation to Hoang’s death. Bone is also charged with a another count of second-degree murder in the death of Trang. Bone was not known to either of the victims, EPS said.
Bone has a lengthy criminal history that includes, aggravated assaults, thefts, mischief, and failing to comply with his court-ordered conditions.
He has a lifetime firearms ban stemming from a sexual interference conviction.
Christina Trang, daughter of one of the victims, said her trust in the justice system is broken.
“We would like answers as to why this happened, how this happened — because it seems like Chinatown is where most of the support services are offered,” Trang said.
“Even when he wasn’t dropped off, he still made his way there. And for this — our family had to pay a really high price.”
“The outcome of the situation could have been very different and my dad could still be with us today.”
“The tragedy of the events following our May 15 interaction with Mr. Bone are not lost on the EPS, and we continue to send our condolences to the families of both men as they navigate the loss of their loved ones,” Reichle said.
EPS said it would not comment further, in consideration of an RCMP investigation into the matter.
“Our hearts are heavy for the family and friends of Hung Trang and Ban Phuc Hoang, and our thoughts are with them as they navigate this terrible tragedy,” said the RCMP statement from Thursday, which also said the force has launched a review of the actions taken by officers with respect to Bone.
On Friday, Cpl. Curtis Peters with the Alberta RCMP media relations unit elaborated, saying police felt it was important to provide additional detail as to what the review involves.
“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 coordinate our responses with partner agencies when there are a multitude of social and judicial factors involved,” Peters said.
Once the review is completed, Peters said more details may be shared.
Both RCMP and Alberta Justice said the Director of Law Enforcement for Alberta was notified of the events and determined the review of the matter should remain with the Alberta RCMP, as it did not reach the threshold for ASIRT to get involved.
ASIRT looks into incidents involving death or serious injury that may have resulted from the actions of police, as well as serious and sensitive allegations against police.
Mayor Amarjeet Sohi said Bone was released from the Edmonton Remand Centre without a proper plan in place for housing and access to treatment services.
“He was instructed to attend a treatment facility in Edmonton that was already full and not accepting new patients. This speaks to a disturbing lack of coordination in the system that must be addressed,” the statement from the mayor on Friday said.
Sohi said he is haunted by the idea of how the tragedy may have been prevented if there was a bed at a treatment centre available.
“What would be different if there were properly funded mental health supports, addiction supports, and housing in place? What would have happened if there was a continuum of care and a release plan in place?
“Could these tragedies have been prevented?”
Sohi said the situation demonstrates how Edmonton is a hub for services for northern and central Alberta, and the system is unable to handle helping the people who need it.
“The RCMP released this individual into a system that they knew was already over capacity, and they left him there. That is not right,” Sohi said.
The RCMP said it 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 coordinated, multi-agency responses that can better address these social issues,” Peters said.
Sohi requested Justice Minister and Solicitor General Tyler Shandro carry out a review to close the gaps in the system and ensure this never happens again.
The mayor also called on Alberta Justice to stop allowing people in correctional facilities to be released into the public without a housing plan.
“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.”
Katherine Thompson, communications spokesperson with the Justice and Solicitor General ministry, said she could not comment on the details of Bone’s release due to privacy legislation.
She was able to share general information about how the system goes about dealing with the release of an offender.
In provincial jails and remand centres, caseworkers engage with inmates set to be released in planning for that, including housing options, she said.
“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,” Thompson said.
Decisions as to who is released on probation, when, where, and under what conditions, are made by the courts — not government — Thompson said, adding probation officers monitor those under community supervision and conditional release.
Sohi called on the Edmonton Police Commission to launch an investigation “into what led to this failure to keep Edmontonians safe and whether it reflects any systemic practices.”
Sohi said the city will be reaching out to the provincial and federal governments to see how all levels of government can come up with solutions that prevent further tragedies.
This recent update is simply more bad news for families already dealing with immense tragedy, a statement from a Chinatown community on Friday said.
“This is why the conversation about decentralizing and desaturating social services in Chinatown matters.
“People who are volatile and dangerous cannot be dropped off and abandoned in our community. Chinatown will continue to work with key partners in support of their recent commitments to make our community safe.”