Police say a man suspected of randomly stabbing a woman and her child to death outside an Edmonton school has mental health issues and was charged multiple times over the last decade with assaulting minors.
“The system, once again, failed,” police Chief Dale McFee told reporters Monday.
McFee said the suspect had been in and out of custody on various charges since 2009, including the random assault of a 12-year-old at a transit station last year.
He was also arrested last month after a person was attacked on a scooter, said McFee. The man was released on conditions and the charges were later stayed.
McFee said there is no making sense of the killings.
“”Our deepest sympathies are with the families that are impacted by this event. Many communities are hurting today. This happened on a school property where students and families now carry trauma.”
Family members identified the victims as Carolann Robillard, 35, and Sarah Miller, who had recently started using the first name Jayden. Robillard was a single Cree mother with two other children.
They were attacked around suppertime Friday outside Crawford Plains School in southeast Edmonton.
McFee said Jayden and an eight-year-old sister had walked home from school but could not get inside. They walked back to the school to meet their mother, and they were attacked.
The younger child escaped but witnessed the stabbings.
“In no way could the victims have anticipated what would happen to them,” said McFee.
Police allege the suspect had earlier attempted to enter the school but was prevented from doing so.
“We give full credit to the school administration for following protocols,” said McFee. “This could’ve been a larger tragedy than it is today.”
“I also want to give credit to heroic actions of a teacher that may have prevented further loss (of) life.”
Police shot the suspect during an altercation shortly after finding the victims. McFee said the man is on life support in hospital. His name has not been released.
“Regrettably, this incident clearly shows the intersection between health care and the justice system and how gaps in our current services and supports can result in far-reaching tragedy,” said McFee.
“There were multiple intervention points, multiple opportunities to hold the suspect accountable and provide him the professional support required to manage his behaviour.”
The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police met with premiers last month about bail reform, mandatory mental health assessments for violent offenders and better co-ordinated justice and mental health supports.
“This can’t continue to go on,” said McFee “We’re lacking accountability in the system, and the reality is these are the discussions that we need to have going forward.”
McFee said police have no reason to believe the attack was racially motivated.
Autopsies for the mother and child are scheduled for Monday and Tuesday.
Edmonton Mayor Amarjeet Sohi said the killings are difficult to comprehend.
“My heart is heavy for their family, loved ones, friends and our entire community,” he wrote on Twitter. ”I know that it is also frightening for the community to hear that this was a random attack.”
He said the city would be providing support that includes a safe space for community members to discuss what happened and mental health resources.
Sohi also offered support to the Edmonton Public School Board and thanked first responders who took the call.
“I cannot imagine how difficult this was for you, so thank you for working hard to keep our community safe.”