Edmonton auto body shop owner grieves employee who was killed

The owner of an auto body shop in Edmonton’s Chinatown neighbourhood is devastated after an employee who was with him from the start of his 33-year business was fatally attacked Wednesday.

“I’m miserable, terrible,” said Anthony Hai, who has owned Albert’s Auto Body since 1989. “But we still have to cope with it.”

Late Wednesday afternoon, a 64-year-old employee was attacked at the shop near 106 Avenue and 98 Street.

Read more: Serious assault at Edmonton auto body shop leaves person with critical injuries

“I was at my office here, attending to some of my customers,” Hai recalled. “Then the word came out that a stranger came into the shop… We asked him politely to leave, without any confrontation.”

But then, Hai realized his employee had already been hurt in the corner of the building and other workers had called 911.

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“I followed (the stranger) as closely but as safely as possible because I don’t know what kind of weapon he has… The worker who was injured is unconscious. I followed him until the security team that I called — I hire a security team for around here for part of the business — they confronted him and sort of held him at bay before the police arrived.

“The first thing is that I hope he would recover,” Hai said Friday. “That was my main concern.

“Everything was happening so fast. I just hoped this is actually a nightmare. It’s just really overwhelming.”

The 64-year-old man was taken to hospital in serious, life-threatening condition but he died Thursday.

Hai described Hung Trang as incredibly hard working.

“As the years went by, he basically was trying to slow down a little bit. Quite frankly, he’s getting ready to retire February of next year. When this happened, I couldn’t believe it.

“We were even talking about throwing him a party,” Hai said.

Click to play video: 'Police investigating 2 suspicious deaths in downtown Edmonton' Police investigating 2 suspicious deaths in downtown Edmonton

Police investigating 2 suspicious deaths in downtown Edmonton

A 36-year-old suspect was arrested after witnesses told police what had happened.

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While investigating that attack, police were made aware of another incident a block south, at 105 Avenue and 98 Street.

When officers got there, another injured man was found. EMS responded and the 61-year-old man was pronounced dead at the scene. An autopsy on his body is scheduled for Friday.

Homicide detectives have taken over the suspicious death investigations and a news release on Thursday said the suspect in custody is believed to have been involved in both incidents. Charges are pending, police said.

Read more: Deaths, violent crimes over 24 hours sees Edmonton police redirect more officers downtown

Also on Thursday, police chief Dale McFee said he was pulling resources from other areas of the city in order to crack down on the rash of violent crimes in central Edmonton.

“Two people lost their lives and and there’s a whole bunch of other serious stuff in relation to that,” McFee said at city hall after speaking at an Edmonton Police Commission meeting.

Edmonton police investigating suspicious deaths in Chinatown on Thursday, May 19, 2022. Global News

But Hai doesn’t think reallocating police resources to the area will improve the situation in the long term.

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While nothing like a fatal assault has ever happened before in his memory, Hai said there has been more crime in the area in the last five years or so.

“I’m still not scared or nervous. I’m just more angry than anything else.

“I think there has to be a change,” he said.

“With all the social agencies that are concentrated in this area… I think all three levels of government should be involved in trying to minimize the number of people coming in — wherever they’re from: out of town, within the city itself, or maybe they’re just getting released from prison… just find a way to put them in a safer place so that we will be safer.

Police resources are finite, he pointed out.

“The police only have a certain amount of resources, and when the police actually say that they’re going to put more people downtown, that means they’re going to thin out police in other areas around the city, which means it could be where I live.

“If that’s the case, then are we winning? Are we better off? Probably not.”

Hai believes redeploying police resources is a “short-term” solution. But, he won’t even entertain the idea of relocating his shop.

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“I’ve been in this area since I started apprenticing in this trade,” he said. “I’m not going to let them win.”

Read more: Edmonton councillors consider how to determine and allocate police funding

Mayor Amarjeet Sohi said he was devastated by the news that two Edmontonians were lost to violent, horrific activity.

“My heart goes out to the community,” the mayor said on Friday.

Sohi said he was pleased to hear more police officers being redirected where they’re most needed. Still, he said he believes the Edmonton Police Service “is adequately funded.”

“We provide $385 million each year to the police and they determine where those policing resources should be allocated. We have one of the best-funded police services in Canada and they do a phenomenal job.

“It’s a matter of resource allocation. Resources need to go where the needs are greatest,” the mayor said.

Read more: Woman stabbed, man injured at downtown Edmonton LRT station

“I’m happy that the police service is allocating more resources now but I’m also disappointed that… those resources should have been there from Day 1. We have seen a decrease in police presence downtown in the last couple of months.

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“Yes, I appreciate that now the police chief is allocating more resources. I’m hopeful those resources will make a difference, give certainty to the community and tackle the criminal activity that’s going on in Chinatown and downtown.”

Click to play video: 'Edmonton councillors consider how to determine and allocate police funding' Edmonton councillors consider how to determine and allocate police funding

Edmonton councillors consider how to determine and allocate police funding

Sohi also stressed that there is a big difference between vulnerable populations and those who are causing disturbances and criminal activity.

“We have to be compassionate… towards the most vulnerable — people who are struggling with houselessness, people who are struggling with addictions, people who are struggling with trauma.

“But we also need to make sure that we are getting tough on the criminals who are exploiting the vulnerable population and criminals who are causing so much harm to the community and to the businesses.”

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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