Police are investigating seven suspects after the killing of 16-year-old Karanveer Sahota, Edmonton’s police chief said Thursday.
Sahota was taken to hospital earlier this month after a reported assault outside McNally High School, and he died of his injuries a week later. An autopsy conducted this week confirmed his death as a homicide, finding that he died of a stab wound to the chest.
Edmonton Police Service chief Dale McFee told the Edmonton Police Commission that seven young people were initially charged with attempted murder.
“Those are currently being reviewed by the prosecutors now that the individual is deceased whether those charges will be elevated,” McFee said.
EPS hasn’t offered further details about the suspects so far, but if any are younger than 18, their names will not be released under the provisions of the Youth Criminal Justice Act.
According to a subsequent statement from EPS, investigative strategies and the timing of Sahota’s death meant earlier charges had to be withdrawn from the Crown to be upgraded. Once final charges have been laid on all the suspects, more details will be made public.
McFee added the investigation has been complex.
The head of the union for Edmonton police officers has pointed to the incident as proof of the need for police officers to be back in public schools.
Sahota was assaulted outside McNally. Family members who set up a GoFundMe page for Sahota’s parents said he had been waiting at a bus stop.
Uniformed police officers had been deployed as school resource officers (SROs) until the program was paused three years ago. The Edmonton Public School Board is expected to discuss a review of the program this fall.
Critics say the presence of uniformed officers creates a school-to-prison pipeline where poor or racialized children are targeted for discipline, funnelling them from schools to the juvenile corrections and criminal justice systems. Researchers who recently analyzed data on the school resource officer program found that officers in schools laid more than 2,000 criminal charges over a decade.
On Thursday, McFee told reporters he hopes the SRO program returns to public schools in the fall.
“We certainly think there’s extreme value, being in schools, building relationships with a youth in relation to helping them stay on the right course,” he said.
The SRO program remains active in Catholic schools, but the Edmonton Catholic School District is also reviewing the program.
McFee said there had been “very few” charges laid as a result of the SRO program.
“If we can play our role of getting kids on that path that are youth on that path, to be contributing members and have a healthy lifestyle, I think it’s absolutely critical that we do.”
— With files from Matthew Black