Chief McFee blames communication error on changing story around whether EPS was in contact with Justin Bone prior to Chinatown killings

Edmonton Police Chief Dale McFee has changed the Edmonton Police’s story about its contact with Justin Bone, the accused murderer of Hung Trang and Ban Phuc Hoang, in a way which absolves the Edmonton Police Service’s responsibility for the incident. However, new reporting from the CBC directly contradicts McFee's claims that Edmonton Police Service officers couldn't have picked Bone up for violating his bail conditions prior to the Chinatown murders. 

Chief McFee said in the June 16 police commission meeting that what the Edmonton Police Service originally told the media was untrue. According to McFee, while EPS had originally claimed to have interacted with Bone after he was dropped off by the RCMP in Edmonton, McFee now says that they did not. Only that the RCMP told them that they dropped him off in Edmonton.

"Although EPS' connection with Bone before the murders was minimal, we don't want to minimize our role,” said McFee. 

McFee persistently argued during the meeting and the subsequent scrum that it was the RCMP who should be held responsible. “That wasn’t us,” said McFee twice in scrum when asked about how the Edmonton Police move forward and establish public trust. “I’m not going to sit here and answer questions for the RCMP, that’s not appropriate.”

But he did answer one question for the RCMP, clarifying that when the RCMP told the media that Bone had been dropped off “near a social services hub in Edmonton,” they meant he had been dropped off at the corner of 156 Street and Stony Plain Road.

McFee also repeatedly made the case that EPS officers couldn't have taken Bone off the streets prior to the Chinatown murders for violating his bail conditions because it was the RCMP who brought Bone into Edmonton. However reporting from the CBC published a few hours after the commission meeting claims that Bone's guarantor in Alberta Beach contacted the EPS and told them that Bone wasn't sober and wasn't keeping the peace. Bone had strict bail conditions that prohibited him from consuming intoxicating substances.

McFee claims he was told there were no drug or alcohol conditions placed on Bone. 

Christina Trang, the daughter of Hung Trang, spoke to the media after the police chief’s remarks to the Edmonton Police Commission. 

“I’m not really sure what to think right now,” said Trang. “Everybody grieves differently I don’t know, maybe I’m in survival mode right now, but it’s important to understand what happened to my dad.” 

She welcomed the release of the RCMP’s upcoming report on how and why Bone was transported to Edmonton from Alberta Beach by RCMP. Trang learned of the information reported by Wallis Snowdon directly from the CBC reporter and not from the chief of police or the EPS. 

Jordon Hon, a photographer and documentary filmmaker who has been making a documentary about Edmonton’s Chinatown spoke to the commission during the input from the public part of the meeting’s agenda. He feels that the Chinatown community was taken advantage of in order for the police to win a budget fight. 

"We feel slighted and misled. We don't know who to trust,” said Hon.

“I wanted to make sure the public, the media, the commission and the EPS know that the Chinatown community wants answers and we aren’t just going to let this go without investigations and clear communications,” said Hon.

When asked by the media whether these murders were leveraged to win a budget fight, McFee was unequivocal. “That’s crazy, we were in the budget on the 18th which was the day this happened. So find it so disheartening that someone would try to spin it that way, that’s not the case.”

Police budget deliberations continued long after the 18th, and were underway until the council vote on June 7th. The police got what they wanted from city council in those votes as well, with a $22 million increase in base funding and the continued existence of a police funding formula that has always increased the police budget.

When asked how many times he was briefed on the matter of Justin Bone between May 18 and June 7, Chief McFee said, “I was never briefed. The only information I got was eventually from my deputy chief on [May] 20 and that’s when I put a superintendent in relation to it to look into the matter,” McFee said in the media scrum.

Chief Dale McFee. 

McFee argued that rather than an internal inquiry into the whole matter, EPS should review why they made initial statements that conflicted with what the department says now.

When Chief McFee was asked if he knew about the RCMP dropping off Bone in Edmonton and the contact between the RCMP and the EPS about Bone before Wallis Snowdon of the CBC released her report, he didn’t answer the question. “What we knew is what I told you and in reality what’s out there right now, isn’t 100 per cent correct. That’s my whole point. We still have to look how the mistake was made, other than that we had minimal involvement in the file. That doesn’t mean when we get that report from communications and the RCMP that we shouldn’t make improvements,” said McFee. 

Mayor Amarjeet Sohi had requested an inquiry into EPS’ and RCMP’s activities regarding Bone, but the Edmonton Police Commission did not discuss it in Thursday’s meeting.

Editor's note: This story was updated with additional reporting from the CBC.