The daughter of a man killed in an unprovoked attack last week outside an Edmonton autobody shop hopes the deaths of her father and another man will serve as a catalyst for change in the city’s Chinatown district.
Hung Trang, 64, was found injured outside Albert’s Auto Body, where he worked, on the afternoon of May 18. Trang died in hospital the next day.
Christina Trang, Trang’s eldest daughter, cried Tuesday as she implored city councillors to make Chinatown safer for residents and business owners.
Trang was among hundreds of Chinatown residents and business owners who flooded council chambers to call for increased police presence in the inner-city neighbourhood following the killings of her father and Ban Phuc Hoang, 61.
A 36-year-old man has been charged with two counts of second degree murder.
Trang said the senseless killings of her father and Hoang have shaken her confidence in the city’s ability to maintain public safety in Chinatown.
The inner-city neighbourhood has struggled with disorder and crime for years and is home to a high concentration of people experiencing homelessness.
“Maybe if things had been different in Chinatown, my father could still be with us today,” Trang told city councillors, her voice breaking.
“How do you feel the situation in Chinatown currently is acceptable? When was the last time any of you stepped foot into that place?”
Mayor Amarjeet Sohi expressed his condolences to the families of the victims and acknowledged the trauma experienced by the community.
Trang said the peaceful Chinatown that her father knew as a young man no longer exists.
Many residents and business owners no longer feel safe walking the streets, she said.
She said her father came to Canada to build her a better life. He was looking forward to retirement later this year. Now, her family is instead planning his funeral.
“I am here today to honour the memory of my dad, and if there was one thing that he would hope for now [it would be] that his death can open up everyone’s eyes to see how out of control things are there now.”
City council convened Tuesday morning to discuss several agenda items, including its safety community and well-being strategy, but councillors soon voted to break with protocol and hear from a flood of public speakers on safety concerns.
Trang was assaulted inside the auto body shop on 98th Street shortly before 4 p.m. last Wednesday.
Moments after officers arrived, police were dispatched to second violent assault about a block away, at Universal Electronics & Video Inc.
Hoang died at the second scene. An autopsy confirmed he died of blunt force injuries to the head and neck.
Justin Bone, 36, was arrested at the scene of the assault on Trang and has been charged with two counts of second-degree murder.
Police said neither victim knew Bone.
‘We need help’
Chinatown resident William Lau, who spoke at Tuesday’s meeting, said the killings have changed the fabric of the area, leaving residents fearful.
The loss of both men is being felt deeply, he said.
He called Hoang “uncle” and said he always had his door open.
“People could assume from the outside that he was just selling DVDs and karaoke machines but you went in and he had some of the best tea in the city.
“He was very generous and would always invite us in, to have just have a seat. It was such a sacred gathering place for many, many community members.”
Phong Luu, who owns Kim Fat Market, told council that Chinatown has been in distress for more than a decade but the problems continue.
He said the community’s pleas for help over several years have not been heeded.
The neighbourhood is increasingly dangerous, he said.
“It seems like every time our community speaks up or needs help, we’re not heard,” he said.
“We need help. We need help now.”
Drug use, crime, vandalism among concerns
Last week, after the killings of the two men and a series of other violent crimes in Edmonton’s core, the Edmonton Police Service promised to increase enforcement in the downtown area, including Chinatown.
Chief Dale McFee told a police commission meeting that officers would be pulled from other divisions to increase patrols.
He emphasized that a series of violent crimes in the core made an increased police presence in the community a priority. The increased patrols were set to begin this week.
In an interview Monday, Wen Wang, executive director of the Chinatown and Area Business Association, said the homicides have left the community shaken.
Rampant drug use, petty crime and vandalism has plagued the area for years, he said.
COVID-19 made the situation worse, as the number of people experiencing homelessness and addiction increased, he said.
“If you look back, even two years ago, we have totally changed. Chinatown has changed, totally changed, in a bad way.”
Private security officers patrol the neighbourhood, but it’s not enough, Wang said.
The patrols, paid for by the Chinatown Transformation Collaborative Society and Chinatown and Area Business Association, have been deployed in the area for two years.
Many businesses owners are fearful. Many, he said, are planning to vacate the neighbourhood for good.
“These tragedies could potentially be prevented,” he said. “Whatever it takes. Because who else can protect Chinatown?
“Nobody wants to see another case or another killing in Chinatown. It’s too much.”
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