A father who had just moved to Edmonton to start a new life with his wife and young son was one of two store clerks killed in what the city's police chief called "barbaric" and "senseless" acts.
Three masked attackers gunned down two Mac's convenience store workers in separate south Edmonton stores early Friday morning, before officers spotted a trio of suspicious individuals at a third Mac's store and chased them down the Whitemud Drive. Under arrest are a 13-year-old boy and two men in their 20s.
Neither of the slain men fought back against their killers, said Edmonton police Chief Rod Knecht.
"They're heinous acts. These were extreme acts of violence. I talked to the investigators before I came in here, and they say it was over-the-top violence. Absolutely unnecessary, gratuitous, evil," a stone-faced Knecht told reporters at a Friday afternoon news conference.
One of the victims was Karanpal Singh Bhangu, a 35-year-old man who had moved to Edmonton this summer with his son Royce, said C-Anne Robertson. Robertson works with Bhangu's wife Kiran at Progressive Academy.
"We were all rejoicing with her last spring when he received permission to immigrate to Canada," Robertson said.
That family's future changed abruptly at 3:30 Friday morning when Bhangu was shot in the stomach while working at a Mac's store on 32nd Avenue and 82nd Street.
Police were first alerted to the crimes when someone sounded a panic alarm at that Millwoods Mac's — the type of occurrence that's a routine call for police, Knecht said.
Police called the store three times. No one answered. An officer drove over to check on the alarm and found Bhangu grievously injured. The officer called for backup. Although police tried to revive him, he died in hospital.
Meanwhile, a delivery man walked into a Mac's store at 109th Street and 61st Avenue to find a trail of blood on the floor leading to a storage room. He called police, who found a 41-year-old man in a back room shot dead. It appeared as though the attackers had dragged him there, Knecht said.
Police have not released the second victim's name while they work to track down and inform the man's family.
Sara Chaloux, who said she was a friend of the man, wrote on Facebook "the man
only wanted a wife and children here in Canada and he didn't even get that."
She said she wants to host a celebration of his life in a Catholic church or at one of his favourite Filipino restaurants.
Such random acts of violence are rare in Edmonton, Knecht said.
"Two innocent people lost their lives today, and there are families here and overseas that will have their holiday season devastated by this news. We should be outraged as a community," Knecht said.
The victims are Edmonton's 28th and 29th homicides of 2015.
Based on security video footage from the first store, an alert went out to all police describing the suspects and their vehicle — a Honda Element stolen from Strathcona County.
Officers who suspected a pattern checked other city Mac's stores. At around 5 a.m., two patrol officers spotted three people outside a Mac's in Callingwood. When police approached, they fled east on Whitemud Drive. The chase ended when the driver of the Element lost control on the freeway, hit a guard rail, and crashed into a barrier under the Terwillegar overpass. Police said three people were arrested without incident, Knecht said.
Charges are pending against a 24-year-old man, a 26-year-old man, a 13-year-old boy. All have criminal records and are prohibited from carrying guns.
Homicide investigators have evidence linking the men and boy to both shootings, Knecht said. Charges are pending, he said.
Furthermore, evidence suggests the suspects may have been involved in other recent robberies.
Their motive was robbery, which baffled Knecht, since business open overnight keep "minimal amounts" of cash in the tills.
In a year-end interview with the Journal Friday afternoon, Knecht mused about whether suspects who commit such violent crimes for petty cash are under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
"Sometimes it's just, it won't make any sense. We're trying to apply logic to highly illogical people," Knecht said.
Kiran Bhangu's co-workers have started a Gofundme page (https://www.gofundme.com/bhangufamily) to raise money for the widow and her son.
Mac's will do all it can to support the employees' families, said Bonnie Birollo, vice-president of operations for Western Canada in a written statement Friday.
"This is a sad day in the history of Mac's. My heart aches for the many lives impacted by this tragedy and especially for the families of the two victims," Birollo said in the statement.
In October, a Husky gas station owner was killed on the job at 75th Avenue and 50th Street during an altercation with a customer. 61-year-old Surinder Pal Singh, who died from head trauma, was Edmonton's 19th homicide victim of 2015.
Last month, 38-year-old Steven Cloutier was charged with four counts of attempted murder when he allegedly drove into a Petro-Canada station after an employee told him he had to prepay for gas.