Canadian authorities are investigating what they described as “an extreme case of domestic violence” that left six adults and two young children dead at two locations in Edmonton, Alberta, and a related suicide in nearby Fort Saskatchewan, police confirmed Tuesday.
The “senseless murders” seemed to be “planned, deliberate and targeted,” Edmonton Police Chief Rod Knecht told reporters Tuesday night, adding that the killings were not gang-related and that there was no risk to the general public.
The weapon used in the killings was a 9-millimeter handgun that was legally registered in British Columbia in 1997 and reported stolen there in 2006, he said.
In my 39 years of policing, I've never seen anything like it.
- Rod Knecht, Edmonton police chief
Knecht said that on Monday, police were called to investigate a weapons complaint in southwest Edmonton about 6:50 p.m. and discovered the body of Cyndi Duong, 37. An autopsy found that she died from a gunshot wound, he said.
"It is alleged a male entered a private residence, discharged a firearm and fled the scene," he said Tuesday afternoon.
Shortly before 8:30 p.m. Monday, he said, Edmonton police responded to a call to check on the welfare of a man in the north end of the city.
Family members reported that the man seemed depressed and very emotional and that they feared he could be suicidal, Knecht said. But when police arrived at the scene, there was no sign of the man and no response from inside the residence. Nothing suspicious was noted, he added.
Police returned to the residence shortly after midnight after receiving additional information. This time, they entered and discovered seven bodies: three women and two men, ages 25 to 50; and a boy and a girl, both younger than 10; Knecht said. He did not provide their identities. He believed the victims were related to one another, but that has not been confirmed, he said.
Knecht did not specify what information prompted police to return to the home, but he said it enabled them to enter without permission from an occupant.
Police had paid visits to that home before, he said: In late 2012, a man there -- who police believe to be the suspect in this week's killings -- was arrested on suspicion of domestic violence, sexual assault and uttering threats. The man was “well known to police” and had a criminal record dating back to 1987 that includes drug- and violence-related issues, Knecht said.
About two hours after finding the seven bodies, police located a black SUV in Fort Saskatchewan, about 25 miles northeast of Edmonton, that matched the description of a vehicle seen at the site of the first killing. Investigators established that the suicidal man who was being sought in connection with the killings in north Edmonton had a business interest in a Fort Saskatchewan restaurant, the police chief said.
Royal Canadian Mounted Police found the man’s body at the restaurant about 8:45 a.m., Knecht said. He is believed to have committed suicide.
“Our homicide investigators have established associations and linkages between these homicides,” Knecht said. “We are not looking at any additional suspects at this time.”
Autopsies of the seven found at the home and the man found at the restaurant are scheduled Thursday, he said.
“In my 39 years of policing, I’ve never seen anything like it,” Knecht said of the killings.
Neighbors told reporters that a family of five lived in the two-story home in north Edmonton where police found the seven bodies. They said they thought the family was Vietnamese and the adults did not speak English well, but would wave and say hello.
Moe Assiff said that he had noticed police outside the house around midnight, according to the Edmonton Journal. A man and a woman -- “white as a ghost” -- were sitting inside a white Toyota Scion parked outside the home, he said. Assiff asked whether everything was all right. The man looked at the house, then told him, “No, it’s personal.”
About 1:30 a.m., Assiff saw the woman talking to a police officer. “She started screaming her head off,” he said. “She let out the biggest scream I’ve ever heard in my life.”
She and the man then got into a police cruiser.
Another neighbor told the Los Angeles Times that she would hear arguing coming from the house.
"We’d be sitting in our kitchen and I’d say to my husband, 'What is that noise?'" said the woman, who gave only her first name, Holly.
She said a woman would run outside, drive around the block and go back inside.
"We used to watch from the distance and make sure no one was getting physically harmed," she said. "There was one day all of us neighbors came out because it was getting heated. We were discussing, should we do something? You just don’t know what to do."
As dusk fell, body bags were carried out of the home on stretchers and loaded into a van.
Police blocked off downtown Fort Saskatchewan while they investigated Tuesday morning. The area has since reopened, but police tape remained around a Vietnamese restaurant, VN Express, news reports said. The front windows and doors appeared to have been smashed.
An employee at Auntie Sue’s Restaurant, across from VN Express, told reporters that she had heard a commotion outside about 6:30 a.m.
A police officer yelled through a megaphone to someone inside VN Express to “come out with your hands up,” said the employee, who was identified only as Laurie in news reports. Police then rammed a vehicle through the front of the restaurant, she said.
Dillman reported from Edmonton and Zavis and Raab from Los Angeles.