A suspect was arrested Wednesday evening after a fatal stabbing spree put a northeast Edmonton neighbourhood on lockdown for several hours.
Earlier in the day, Edmonton police descended upon the Homesteader neighbourhood, where what’s believed to be a random attack left one person dead, two others injured and turned several residential areas into crime scenes.
On Wednesday evening, family of the deceased victim identified him as 38-year-old Brian Berland from Cold Lake First Nation. Family members said Berland was on a walk with his sister and her puppy, Meatball, when he was attacked. The dog ran away in the chaos and family added they are looking for any information on the current whereabouts of their missing pet.
All residents, pedestrians and motorists were asked to avoid the area of Hermitage Road and Henry Avenue NW or shelter in place while officers searched for a man with an “edged weapon.”
“At this time, two people have been seriously injured and one person is deceased. The assaults are believed to be random in nature,” Edmonton police said in a news release at 3:36 p.m.
Two hours later, police said they were looking for 25-year-old Clarence Lawrence, who was considered dangerous and not to be approached.
Lawrence has curly, black hair and was last seen wearing a dark hoodie and grey shirt.
“His appearance was described by witnesses as dishevelled and untidy,” police said.
CCTV images from earlier in the day showed him in beige khaki pants, white shoes and the above-mentioned dark hoodie.
Just before 6 p.m., police said he had just been arrested near 50 Street and 122 Avenue in the Newton area.
“I turned around and I saw the guy walking towards me about a house away from me,” said a north Edmonton resident, who did not want to be named but watched the arrest happen right in front of her.
“All of a sudden I saw the SWATs jumped out of the vehicle and saying, ‘Get down! Get down!’ I saw him turn his head, he was down on the ground, they cuffed him. All hail the police!”
There was a heavy police presence at multiple places in the northeast Edmonton neighbourhoods of Homesteader and Hermitage all Wednesday afternoon.
Officers blocked off Hermitage Road at the intersection of Henry Avenue, where it appeared something was covered by a tarp.
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There was a second police scene spotted a block away on Harrow Circle near 40 Street, where police tape blocked off several areas and another tarp was seen on the ground.
There are several schools in the area and eight were affected by the police activity.
Edmonton Catholic Schools said four of the division’s schools went on alert as a precaution.
When a school is on alert, the exterior doors are closed and no one is allowed to enter or exit the building, but classes continue as normal.
St. Nicholas Catholic Junior High School, St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic Junior High School, Anne Fitzgerald Catholic Elementary School, and St. Maria Goretti Catholic Elementary School were all affected.
The police situation impacted dismissal at three of the schools, where the exterior doors were locked but teachers continued with classroom activities.
Edmonton Public Schools said four of its schools were also placed on alert. Students were kept inside and dismissal was delayed at four schools: Homesteader, Belmont, Sifton and Overlanders.
Students from all of the schools were dismissed around 5:30 p.m. after the police situation ended.
Lennea Blanchard was driving in the area to pick up her six-year-old son from school around 3 p.m. when she saw the heavy police presence. She said she had no idea what was going on.
“Driving up you see tactical teams and police and you go, ‘that’s kind of strange, but not unusual.’ And then you come around the corner, past the four-way stop and the entire road is shut down by police,” she explained.
Blanchard said she went into “instant panic.”
“My anxiety went through the roof. Instant shaking. It was terrifying. You have no information, you don’t know what’s happening. Your kid’s inside the school and you can’t get to them. That’s the hardest thing,” she said.
Blanchard said a police officer came over and told parents there was an active situation, but didn’t go into further details at the time.
She said the officer told her the school was on alert and that no one was allowed in or out of the school. The officer also told people in the area to shelter in place, Blanchard explained.
“It’s kind of sad to see everybody is waiting for some kind of information,” she said.
“The first thing you see when you come up to the school is they’re putting papers on the doors saying that they’re on alert, with no other information yet.
“To see all of the other parents on their phones, or trying to figure out what’s going on and nobody has any answers is kind of scary.”
Blanchard has been watching the news closely and said given what’s been going on in Saskatchewan over the past several days, learning what is happening is unnerving.
“For this to happen so close to home is a little unsetting, for sure.”
There’s no word yet on what charges the suspect may face.