EDMONTON — The baffling motive for a bloody and deadly attack on workers at an Edmonton grocery warehouse remained a mystery Monday as an accused made his first court appearance, but police were at least able to say they believe the victims were chosen at random, not targeted.
Police Chief Rod Knecht told reporters that investigators are continuing to talk to dozens of witnesses in order to understand more about the crime and the alleged killer.
And although all six men who were stabbed — two of them fatally — at the huge Loblaws distribution complex in northwest Edmonton on Friday are black, Knecht said it doesn’t appear race was a reason for the rampage.
Knecht said officers believe the victims were selected at random as their attacker walked through the building.
“We’re obviously keeping our minds open to potential motives,” Knecht said. “We continue to investigate, glean more information, learn more about the individual that’s been charged.”
Witnesses have said a Caucasian man wearing a military-style vest went through the workplace, slashing and stabbing with a knife in each hand.
Police quickly identified Jayme Pasieka as a suspect and distributed his photo. The 29-year-old was arrested a few hours later without incident as he sitting in a vehicle in an industrial area on the opposite end of the city.
He faces several charges — first-degree murder, attempted murder, aggravated assault and weapons offences. Police said as they continue to investigate and talk to witnesses, there could be more charges.
A handcuffed Pasieka appeared on closed-circuit TV from the Edmonton Remand Centre. He confirmed his name to the judge but said nothing else.
The judge accepted a request from defence lawyer Brandon Tralenberg that the case be put over to May 5.
“Obviously there’s a lot of things that have happened. There’s a lot of people that want some answers,” Tralenberg said outside the courtroom.
“There’s a lot of information that’s come from the police interviews, people that are apparent witnesses, so this is going to take some time.”
Assistant chief Crown prosecutor Kimberley Goddard told media that her office is taking the case “very seriously.”
“Given the large number of civilian witnesses and the large amount of evidence we have, it could be a very complicated case,” she said. “In terms of length of time and putting it all together properly, we’re prepared to put as many resources and as much time as required to make sure that this case goes off without a hitch.”
Search warrants for Pasieka’s apartment and vehicle show police were looking for any writings “that indicate workplace conflict, mind set or pre-planning or motive for the incident.”
The documents also indicate that police believe Pasieka had been drinking wine.
Other court records show Pasieka has a history of erratic behaviour. He was convicted in 2010 of assault with a weapon and uttering threats and sentenced to 15 months probation.
Court heard that he egged a neighbour’s vehicle and set a heart-shaped fire on their street. He told police he did what he did in the name of the Queen and that he one day wanted to join either the police or military.
His father testified Pasieka had trouble understanding things following a concussion in an accident a few years earlier.
Loblaws also said Monday it was reopening the warehouse for those workers who wanted to returned.
“We had initially anticipated a longer closure,” said a statement from the company. “But the decision was advised by professional grief counsellors, based on their belief in the value of work and workplace interactions following traumatic events of this sort.”
Thierno Bah, 41, and Fitzroy Harris, 50, have been identified as the men killed in the warehouse attack.
Friends said Bah, originally from Guinea, came to Montreal in 2009. He had a master’s degree in nanotechnology but had trouble finding work in his field because his English was weak. He moved to Edmonton a few months ago with his wife and four children.
Harris’s family described the married grandfather as a talented DJ who loved reggae music.