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Former judge to review police-and-suspect interactions in Edmonton Chinatown killings

Click to play video: 'Independent review launched on what led to Edmonton’s Chinatown deaths'
Independent review launched on what led to Edmonton’s Chinatown deaths
The Edmonton Police Commission has retained a retired judge to conduct an independent review of the circumstances leading up to the beating deaths of two men in Chinatown back in May. Sarah Komadina reports – Dec 5, 2022

The interactions between police officers and a man accused of killing of two people in Edmonton’s Chinatown in May will undergo a review by a retired Alberta Court of King’s Bench justice.

The Edmonton Police Commission announced Monday it had retained former judge Donna L. Shelley to conduct the independent review into the events that preceded the violence.

In a news release, the EPC said Shelley “will serve as an independent third party to assist in reviewing the circumstances of the accused individual’s arrival and stay in Edmonton.”

Justin Bone has been charged with second-degree murder in the deaths of Hung Trang, 64, and Ban Phuc Hoang, 61.

READ MORE: Edmonton homicide investigators looking to speak with people at scene of Chinatown attacks

Both the RCMP and the Edmonton Police Service have said Bone was dropped off in Edmonton after being kicked out of the home he had been living in west of the city.

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The RCMP said officers were called about threats being made at a home in Alberta Beach on May 15, and while the complaint did not meet the law enforcement agency’s threshold for laying charges, decided Bone needed to leave.

The RCMP said officers were not able to contact Bone’s probation officer so decided to bring him to a social services hub in west Edmonton so he could be somewhere where supports and services would be nearby. The EPS said it was notified of Bone being transported to Edmonton.

READ MORE: Suspect in Chinatown killings was dropped off by RCMP in west Edmonton, despite condition orders

The EPS originally said its staff had made contact with Bone after they were contacted by RCMP, but later issued a correction and said police officers did not actually interact with Bone on the day he was brought to Edmonton.

The RCMP said its officers were able to reach Bone’s probation officer the day after he arrived in Edmonton and work began on trying to arrange supports for the man, who was 36 at the time.

On May 18, Bone was arrested after Trang and Hoang were killed at two different businesses in Chinatown. The EPS said its investigators believe Bone was not known by either Trang or Hoang.

Bone has a lengthy criminal history that includes a lifetime firearms ban stemming from a sexual interference conviction.

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Click to play video: 'Suspect in Chinatown killings was dropped off by RCMP in west Edmonton'
Suspect in Chinatown killings was dropped off by RCMP in west Edmonton

Families of both victims have called for lingering questions about the killings — and the circumstances leading up to them — to be answered.

“I think everybody agrees that what happened in Chinatown was an absolute catastrophe,” EPC chair John McDougall told reporters on Monday. “I’d like to have the people of Chinatown feel confident that their voice is being heard.

“I think what the public is looking for is answers on what happened, how it unfolded (and) what could be done differently — either from a policy perspective or from a policing perspective.

“The commission’s heard that the public wants to know what’s going on and we’re a little bit tied by the courts process and the ongoing investigations process, but we are very optimistic that by hiring this retired justice that we can find some answers for the citizens, for the (police) service and for the councillors.”

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Coun. Sarah Hamilton, who is also an EPC member, said she is aware of how keenly interested many citizens are in learning more about the circumstances of what happened.

“It’s an understatement to say there’s a lot of public interest, not only in the actions of police, but the governance around police and policing,” she said.

“I think, honestly, a lot of the legislation in Canada is old around it, so police commissions are not necessarily well-equipped to answer questions… legitimate questions from the public about police accountability.”

Click to play video: 'Citizens pack council chambers in wake of Chinatown deaths'
Citizens pack council chambers in wake of Chinatown deaths

On Monday, the EPC said Shelley’s review will have a number of aims, including to “assess” how and when Edmonton police officers interacted with Bone, to examine “publicly available reports or proceedings from other bodies,” to provide ongoing updates to the EPC and to produce a final report.

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“The report will outline all known information, potential gaps in knowledge and recommend how the commission could address knowledge gaps going forward,” the EPC said. “It is anticipated that the final report will become available within a few months after the conclusion of the accused’s legal proceedings.

The EPC said the commission and Shelley would not be able to provide additional comment on Monday but said it “remains committed to keeping the public updated as the process unfolds.”

Click to play video: 'Daughter of Chinatown victim Ban Hoang speaks out'
Daughter of Chinatown victim Ban Hoang speaks out

McDougall said because the criminal investigative and courts process is ongoing, he would not be able to speculate on how long Shelley’s review may take, but noted the EPC hopes to receive as much input as possible from as many relevant actors as possible.

“We don’t have the ability to compel people, so we are asking through our appointee to find out whatever policies are available,” he said, adding that if there are gaps in policy, “we want to see where.”

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McDougall noted this is the first time in his years with the EPC that he can recall a retired judge being retained to conduct such a review.

Hamilton said she believes the EPC’s “fundamental priority… is ensuring public trust and ensuring the confidence of the public.”

“I think when there are questions around… something that happens, especially as it relates to policy (or) operational procedure, I think it’s incumbent upon the police commission to, if not inquire or investigate, ask significant questions around process,” she said.

“(The announcement of this review) indicates that police commissions (or) police governance organizations, not just in Edmonton (and) not just in Alberta — but across Canada — are actually looking for ways to satisfy public questions around police action.”

In June, the RCMP said it was launching its own review of actions taken by officers with regard to Bone.

Mayor Amarjeet Sohi said he believes Bone was released from a correctional facility before an adequate plan was created for how to house him and ensure he had access to treatment services.

The Edmonton mayor said the drug treatment facility Bone was to go to was already at capacity and said he believes the situation underscores gaps in the system for people who need help.

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READ MORE: Edmonton releases public safety plan requested by Shandro; pushes province for support

Sohi also called for Justice Minister Tyler Shandro and the EPC to order reviews looking into what gaps the system may have.

–With files from Karen Bartko, Morgan Black, Global News

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