Edmonton police backtrack, says officers did not speak with accused before Chinatown homicides

The Edmonton Police Service walked back comments made last week about EPS officers’ interactions with the man who was later accused of killing two men in Chinatown. 

EPS previously said that following a call from a complainant on May 15, its officers interacted with Justin Bone. 

Bone has been charged with two counts of second-degree murder in the killings of Hung Trang and Ban Phuc Hoang on May 18.

Released on bail from the Edmonton Remand Centre in late April, Bone had been living with a family friend in Alberta Beach, but the living arrangement soon grew volatile. The homeowner told CBC he contacted RCMP for help on May 15 because Bone had become threatening and he feared for his life.

One of Bone’s bail conditions prohibited him from being in Edmonton unsupervised, but RCMP said they dropped him off in the city so he could be near social services.

EPS initially said its officers “evaluated how he came to be in Edmonton” and that Bone “was advised to abide by the balance of his ordered conditions, and to discuss any changes with his probation officer.”

At a police commission meeting on Thursday, Police Chief Dale McFee said EPS officers did not make any contact with Bone in the days before the homicides because no offence had occurred and RCMP had brought him to the city.

“We didn’t have any dealings with the individual,” he told reporters after the meeting.

He said EPS is examining how it made the communications error.

Bone not dropped at Hope Mission as planned

McFee’s comments during the police commission meeting revealed new details about Bone’s whereabouts between May 15 and May 18.

He said an RCMP officer told an EPS emergency communications evaluator on May 15 that Bone was going to be dropped off at Hope Mission, a shelter in Edmonton’s inner city.

“There was no mention of his criminal history,” McFee said.

He also said EPS later learned that Bone had not been dropped off at the Hope Mission but on Stony Plain Road, near 156 Street, and he came to stay at an acquaintance’s residence until the morning of May 18.

Police commissioners questioned the chief about the series of events.

“Were the [bail] conditions changed?” asked Ward O-day’min Coun. Anne Stevenson.

“That we don’t know,” McFee answered.

Christina Trang told media that her family still has questions about Bone’s release. (Trevor Wilson/CBC)

McFee said more details about what happened during the RCMP house call and communications with Bone’s bail supervisor should emerge in the RCMP’s review.

“We absolutely need to get the report and figure out how this happened,” he said. 

Bail conditions

In addition to the prohibition on being in Edmonton, Bone’s bail conditions also included a prohibition on consuming intoxicating substances.

The Alberta Beach homeowner, who Bone was living with until May 15, told CBC News that Bone was not sober the day he was dropped in Edmonton and he advised EPS as such.

He recalled telling Edmonton police that “instead of breaching him, because he was not sober and he wasn’t keeping the peace, the RCMP took him into the city and dropped him off.”

McFee said he was told there were no alcohol or drug conditions involved.

‘Confusing and frustrating’

Christina Trang, Hung Trang’s eldest daughter, said her family still has questions about Bone’s release.

“This is all just very confusing and frustrating as to what law is really supposed to be in place for a person if they’ve been released on parole conditions and somebody can just override everything that’s set in place,” she said.

Jordon Hon, a filmmaker who has been working on a Chinatown documentary, asked after the meeting why information about Bone in the city prior to May 18 was not shared with the community sooner.

“It was kind of a coincidence that this all happened when police funding and the funding formula and all those discussions were happening,” he said.

At the last police commission meeting, on May 19, McFee announced that in the wake of a string of serious crimes, he was accelerating a plan to bring more police officers downtown.

McFee said his deputy chief told him the next day, on May 20, about Bone’s journey to Edmonton and information relayed to EPS.

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