Mac's killings: Charges pending against 2 men, 13-year-old boy
Josh Dehaas, CTVNews.ca
Published Friday, December 18, 2015 11:18AM EST
Last Updated Friday, December 18, 2015 8:45PM EST
Charges are pending against two men and a 13-year-old boy accused of gunning down two Mac's convenience store employees in Edmonton during early morning robberies the police chief called "gratuitous" and "evil."
Edmonton Police Chief Rod Knecht told reporters Thursday that police received a signal from a personal alarm inside a convenience store around 3:30 a.m. Friday morning. After three phone calls were made to see whether it was a false alarm, a patrol car was sent.
When the police arrived less than 15 minutes after the alarm, they found a man who had been shot, Knecht said.
That man was Karanpal Singh Bhangu, 35, who later died in hospital from a gunshot wound to the stomach.
Around the same time police discovered Bhangu, they were alerted to a second victim at another store. A delivery man had "entered the (other Mac's) store and noticed a trail of blood," Knecht said.
That victim, 41, was pronounced dead at the scene.
Knecht said police used surveillance camera footage to identify three masked suspects, who were later spotted by police in a stolen vehicle and taken into custody. The vehicle was involved in a crash, he added.
"Neither of the victims offered any resistance to the robbers and posed no threat to them," Knecht said.
"This was a barbaric and gratuitous act of violence upon two innocent persons resulting in a senseless loss of life," he added, calling it "gratuitous, evil."
The suspects' names have not been released pending charges, but they are males aged 26, 24 and 13. They were known to police.
Knecht said the motive appears to be "simple robbery" and that the thieves would not likely have gotten away with much, because Mac's employees deposit most cash in safes that night employees can't open.
Knecht confirmed that no witnesses have yet come forward, suggesting each victim was working alone when the shootings occurred.
Edmonton convenience store owner Kashyap Pandit said his store was robbed by two masked men, one with a gun and the other with a knife, on Thursday evening around 8:15 p.m.
Pandit said that his wife, who recently immigrated from India and has limited English skills, was alone in the store when it happened.
"We are fortunate nothing happened physically to my wife," he said, describing the robbery as "very scary."
"They made her to open the till and whatever money was in the till, they took," he said. "And they cut the phone wires, the cable lines."
"They even took her cellphone so that she (could not) call the police," he added.
Pandit said police had taken a report and asked for a copy of his security camera footage.
He said he had considered changing the store's closing time to midnight, but had kept it at 8:30 p.m., partly out of concerns about the safety of staying open later.
Call for action
The Alberta Federation of Labour said the deaths are "a grim reminder that workers working retail in the middle of the night face greater risks of violence," and called for stricter safety regulations.
"We know from experience that workers working in the middle of the night are at dramatically greater risk of violence," Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan said, according to the statement.
"Government has a responsibility to act."
McGowan said Alberta should follow the lead of British Columbia, where all-night retail employers are required to have more than one person on duty at night, or put overnight employees working alone behind secure barriers.
McGowan also called for mandatory training for late-night retail employees on "how to deal with robberies and gas-and-dash situations" and "spot checks" to make sure safety rules are being followed.
A spokesperson for Mac's issued a brief press release calling the deaths "sad."
"My heart aches for the many lives impacted by this tragedy and especially for the families of the two victims," said Mac's Western Canada Vice-President of Operations Bonnie Birollo, according to the statement.
"We are doing all we can to support our people and to reach out to those in need."
With files from CTV Edmonton and CTV Alberta Bureau Chief Janet Dirks