Anna Junker

Published:October 9, 2021

-Edmonton Journal


Almost half of Edmonton’s homicides so far this year are related to gang activity, the city’s top cop says.

So far this year, the city has seen 28 confirmed homicides and when speaking to media on Wednesday, Edmonton police chief Dale McFee said 11 of those are gang-related.

“Those are the ones (that are) obviously concerning, that means that it’s gang-on-gang, gang within gang,” he said, adding those have been leading to the increase in violence on city streets.

The drug trade has also played a role in this year’s homicides, with at least six of them directly tied to drugs. McFee noted 13 of the suspects and the victims were also known to each other.

McFee said the escalation in violence has been increasing, a trend he said is disproportionately playing out across North America, especially in the United States.

“We had an increase of the violence within the call, not the number of calls, but the increase in violence within the call,” McFee said.

“A lot of that, as I said, is that aspect of organized criminal component, which we have teams on working 24-7 around the clock, and we’re going to make it real uncomfortable for them.”

McFee said a lot of the violence is playing out in the city’s downtown, and the COVID-19 pandemic could be playing a role in some of it.

“But these people have been trying to exploit our cities for many, many years, and I think we’re seeing it play out in front of it,” he said. “Some of it is pretty brazen when they’re doing gang-on-gang, it’s out in the public and that is a concern.”

Out of the 28 homicides to date, two of the victims are women and 26 are men. The city’s youngest homicide victim was 18 years old, while the oldest was 56.

Seven people have died of stab wounds, six from gunshot wounds, four from sharp force injuries, and one from blunt force trauma. Eight of the victims have had their cause of death withheld or results are pending further testing.

Two of the 28 homicides involved men who were shot and killed by Edmonton police. Police do not include these deaths in their official homicide count.

To date, 13 people have been charged in 12 homicides. Eight people have been charged with second-degree murder, four people have been charged with first-degree murder, and one person has been charged with manslaughter.

At this time in 2020, there were 22 confirmed homicides.

Suspicious deaths

Edmonton police are also investigating a number of suspicious deaths over the last few months.

Police found Peter Meyer, 64, dead in an apartment in the area of 66 Street and 120 Avenue on May 3. His cause of death has not been released.

On May 21, a man whose name hasn’t been released by police was struck by a dark-coloured truck in a fatal hit and run. Homicide detectives continue to investigate his death.

The death of Ezekiel Bigstone, 21, is also considered suspicious. Officers were called to a local hospital on Aug. 6 after staff found Bigstone in medical distress at a transit stop in the university area. Bigstone died in hospital.

The death of a 57-year-old man in the area of 92 Street and Stadium Road on Aug. 12 also remains as suspicious. While an autopsy was completed, the cause and manner of death are pending further testing. Police haven’t released his name, saying there is a possibility the death may be non-criminal.

Police are also investigating the death of 43-year-old Donald Blizzard, whose remains were found in Lac St. Anne County on Sept. 13. Blizzard had been missing since July and police are treating his death as suspicious.

On Oct. 3, police responded to reports of a shooting near 81 Avenue and 104 Street. When officers arrived, they located a man on the street who later died on the scene. No autopsy results have been released yet and his death is being treated as suspicious.

Police are also investigating a suspicious death of a 43-year-old man that occurred Friday evening, after being called to an assault. An autopsy is scheduled for Oct. 12.