Gang retribution to blame for killing of father and son in Edmonton, with potential retaliation forthcoming: criminologist

A former Edmonton Police officer says gang violence is likely to blame for several recent shootings across the country, including the death of an 11-year-old boy and his father in Edmonton.

By News Staff

The daylight killing of a father and his young son in southeast Edmonton last week is linked to gang activity spreading from B.C. to Toronto, says a criminologist and former EPS inspector.

Dan Jones, a 25-year Edmonton police veteran who worked assignments on the gangs division of the Organized Crime Branch, confirms what a source told CityNews: gang retribution played a major role in the fatal shooting of Harpreet Uppal and his 11-year-old son Gavin.

The 41-year-old Uppal, who was known to police for his drug and gang connections, and his son were killed Nov. 9 while parked outside an A&W at Ellerslie Road and 50th Street.

BACKGROUND: 11-year-old and his father killed in ‘targeted’ Edmonton shooting

Jones believes the deaths – which autopsies this week confirmed were homicides – are linked to activity involving the United Nations gang and the Brothers Keepers gang.

“We had the shooting here (in Edmonton), there was also a homicide that was possibly related to the one here, in Toronto, of a UN gang member,” he said.

Jones, the Chair of justice studies at NorQuest College, believes Uppal was connected to the Brothers Keepers gang in B.C.’s Lower Mainland. The CityNews source echoed that belief.

“Obviously with the drug trade something has shifted, there’s been something that’s happened, and now you’re starting to see retribution from the UN gang, from My Brothers Keepers, in different places like Edmonton and Toronto,” said Jones. “And you’re starting to see that in a way that we haven’t really seen in the last little while. But we have seen it before where we’ve had impact of gangs from other places in Edmonton.

“Edmonton is a port city in the middle of the Prairies. You have to go through Edmonton to get drugs to the north. So we’ve always had involvement from the Lower Mainland, from Toronto. We’ve always had that.”

But there’s one thing that makes last week’s double killing stand out to Jones in a big way.

“I’ve never seen a child targeted in a gang killing,” he said. “I’ve unfortunately had children victim of homicides when I was in homicide, but it was not a gang-targeted killing. This is the first time I’ve ever seen that in Canada that I know of.”

“That is potentially really going to lead to a retaliation. I do worry about that.”

—Former EPS Insp. Dan Jones

Gavin was not caught in the line of fire but deliberately killed, police have said. A second boy – a friend of Gavin’s – was also in the car at the time of the shooting and was not physically harmed. Police say he fled the vehicle after the shooting.

“I look at the family of the victims – I spent a lot of time with the Victims of Homicide Society in Edmonton and worked with families of homicide victims for very extensive periods of time, and the trauma that happens is never going to leave,” said Jones. “This is something that’s going to be with them forever.

“I feel so much for the first responders, for the police and the paramedics who responded to this. To see a shooting of an 11-year-old is going to stick with them too. It’s going to have a ripple effect of trauma throughout the first responders and vicariously through the community, and people need to have wellness plans and take care of themselves.”

WATCH: Edmonton Police release video of suspects and vehicle involved in Thursday’s shooting

EPS released roughly 30 seconds of surveillance video purported to show two suspects leaving what police say is a black BMW SUV. The passenger can be seen exiting the vehicle first, then the driver. Both run out of the video’s frame, then can be seen running back. The vehicle then drives away.

Uppal was previously targeted in a 2021 restaurant shooting when a man walked up to a window by his table and shot through the glass. Uppal was wounded, but nobody else was injured.

“With this individual being who he was and his connections with My Brothers Keepers in the Lower Mainland and the previous shooting on him, I think that made it a real quick decision to release his name,” said Jones. “I would do the same thing if I was an investigator. I would want the name out there because hopefully that would increase potential tips coming in.”

‘We are in a safe city’

Jones acknowledges Edmontonians may feel unsafe in the shooting’s aftermath, especially considering its connection to gang activity and the potential for retaliation. But the city is safe, he says, and crime comes in waves.

“I don’t want to have mass panic or fear because I don’t think that’s necessary,” he said. “This was a targeted shooting. It was unfortunately in the middle of the day, bullets do find strays, people have been hit by stray bullets in Canada in the past. But it’s unlikely.

“The gun violence you’re seeing in Edmonton is most related to criminal enterprises, organized crime. Gangs, people involved in criminal lifestyles. There’s not a lot of random people getting shot in Edmonton. That’s just not something that happens. Does it happen? Yes. Is it rare? Yes.

“We are in a safe city, but be aware of your surroundings.”

The former EPS inspector believes police should employ a few different strategies to tackle the gang problem.

“We just need to start addressing the violence and the gang violence and I think the police need to start addressing that with evidence-based practices, and looking at what they call ‘the power of few,’ focusing on your highest-harm individuals,” said Jones.

He also believes in “focused deterrence” – helping certain people leave that world behind rather than arresting them.

–With files from Adrienne South and Carly Robinson

Top Stories

Top Stories

Most Watched Today