The Edmonton Police Service said family violence calls are common and are among the most dangerous for officers to respond to — often not knowing the gravity of the situation they are in until they arrive.
When Cst. Brett Ryan and Cst. Travis Jordan arrived to the Baywood Apartment complex in northwest-central Edmonton shortly after midnight Thursday, all they knew is that a woman was having difficulty with her teenage son.
“There is nothing to really indicate that this was a dangerous or high-threat violent response for our members,” EPS investigations bureau deputy chief Devin Laforce said in an update Friday.
When the mother led them up to her apartment, police said they had no previous information about a gun being in the home — adding the parents likely didn’t know either.
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The constables had no way of knowing the danger they were walking in to.
“Responding to domestic violence and family fights are one of the most dangerous responses our police members do,” Laforce said.
“There’s so many variables and dynamics that occur in that situation that you just never know.”
Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters executive director Jan Reimer said this incident is a grim reminder for everyone about how volatile family and domestic violence can be.
“You got the police officers who were there to protect, but who weren’t protected themselves in terms of the violence. You can only imagine what the woman in the hospital is going through, and then all the friends and family,” she said.
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“It’s one of the most serious calls (police) can respond to.”
The officers arrived at the apartment suit and both constables were shot multiple times by the 16-year-old boy.
A struggle then ensued between the mom and son. She was shot and the teenager then took his own life.
The mother was taken in critical condition by EMS to hospital, where police on Friday said she remained unconscious, in serious but stable condition.
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Reimer said in these types of violent situations, it’s often about power and control.
“When you think about police coming, and coming up the sidewalk or down the hall, and they are wearing uniforms, that’s a threat to the power of the abuser.”
Reimer said family violence has been on the rise, and so is violence involving teens and their parents.
“It’s changing because we are seeing more addictions, more mental health issues, we’re seeing an increase in the number of guns in our community. So all of this adds to the dangers and complexities when you’re dealing with family violence,” Reimer said.
“We had a 10 per cent jump over the last 10-years in the number of women believing their intimate partner will kill them.”
Ashley Lim is a psychologist and with Community Initiatives Against Family Violence, the group aims to end family violence.
She said the pandemic had a huge effect on people’s mental health — many people have been left feeling isolated — and this is contributing to the increase of domestic violence.
Lim said having difficult conversations could go a long way.
“One of the things I want to remind parents and youth is, you have to create space for empathy and listening, we may not have the right answers or questions to ask but even just opening door way,” Lim said.
Lim said this tragic incident can be triggered and cause vicarious trauma.
“With many instances of family violence, we know things are happening in our communities and sometimes much closer than we want to think about. If someone is feeling really impacted… reach out to your friends and family and do some of these check ins with them,” Lim said.
Reimer hopes from here there’s a way forward that will lead to prevention.
“A lot of questions about how did this get to this point, but I think we need to recognize domestic violence, family violence as a serious and urgent problem that we all need to work together we all need to learn more about how to respond to it,” Reimer said.
“I think first we grieve and then we really commit ourselves to serious action.”
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