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.
Alberta’s justice minister fired back Monday at claims by Edmonton’s mayor that a man facing two murder charges in the city’s Chinatown killings was released from jail without a housing plan.
Justin Bone, 36, is accused of killing two men in their 60s at businesses in central Edmonton’s Chinatown area on May 18.
Bone was released from jail at the end of April and was living west of Edmonton, reportedly awaiting space at a treatment facility when his housing situation changed and he ended up on the streets of Edmonton.
On Friday, Mayor Amarjeet Sohi released a statement saying 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.
Justice Minister and Solicitor General Tyler Shandro said that’s not accurate.
“The statement incorrectly claimed that Justin Bone was released from remand without a plan for housing and that addictions treatment services were unavailable,” a statement released Monday said.
“Justice and solicitor general can confirm that Justin Bone was released from the Edmonton Remand Centre on April 29 to an Alberta Beach homeowner as per his release conditions, as determined by the courts. Justice and solicitor general can also confirm that an alternative addiction treatment facility without a wait-list was made available.”
Alberta Justice did not elaborate on where the alternative option was or provide any more details.
Last week, it came to light that Bone had been released from jail and was living in Alberta Beach where, on May 15, Parkland County RCMP responded a threats complaint at the home.
Police heard both sides and determined the situation didn’t meet the threshold for charges, however the owner stated Bone could no longer stay at their home.
RCMP said Bone was under conditions not to travel into Edmonton without the Alberta Beach homeowner, so police tried to contact his probation officer but on that Sunday, they could not be reached.
Mounties said a decision was made to bring Bone to a place where supports were available.
He was brought into the city, dropped off near a social services hub in the west end of Edmonton and city police were notified, both law enforcement agencies confirmed.
Edmonton police said officers got a call from a complainant. An initial statement from EPS on June 10 said police spoke with Bone, discovering how he arrived in Edmonton.
EPS said because no criminal offence was observed, they could not lawfully detain him.
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.
Police said Bone was told to follow his conditions and get in touch with his probation officer — which happened the next day on May 16, police said.
It was two days after that when the two men in Chinatown were fatally attacked.
Police initially responded to an assault on 64-year-old Hung Trang at an auto body shop near 106 Avenue and 98 Street, before quickly discovering another man, 61-year-old Ban Phuc Hoang, had also been hurt a block away. Both men died of their injuries.
“There has to be some accountability into the actions of the RCMP,” Sohi said on Monday. “They should have never left this dangerous individual unsupervised on the streets of Edmonton when they knew very well there were conditions on his bail that he either had to be in a treatment facility otherwise he has to be under the supervision of someone.
“In this case, I think this bail condition was not respected and not adhered to, and so we have asked Minister Shandro to undertake a comprehensive review of that situation as well as asking our police commission — we’ve sent a letter to the police commission and to Minister Shandro — asking for their investigation and a review: what failed, what went wrong and how we can improve coordination in the system.”
Instead, Shandro said the Alberta RCMP and the Edmonton Police Service are already both undertaking reviews of the matter involving Bone.
“I have instructed the deputy minister of justice and solicitor general to monitor these reviews and recommend next steps once finalized,” the justice minister said in his statement Monday.
Last week, a justice ministry communications spokesperson said in provincial jails and remand centres, caseworkers engage with inmates set to be released in planning for that, including housing options.
“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,” Katherine Thompson said.
Bone has been charged with second-degree murder and robbery in relation to Hoang’s death. Bone is also charged with another count of second-degree murder in the death of Trang.
Bone was not known to either of the victims, Edmonton police 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.