December 31, 2014 / 6:08 PM / 3 years ago

Killing of eight in Canada a 'deliberate' attack: police

Police cordon tape surrounds a house (R, with lights on) where seven people were found dead, in one of three separate crime scenes, in north Edmonton, Alberta, December 30, 2014.Dan Riedlhuber

CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - The suspected killer of eight people in Edmonton, Canada, had a criminal record dating back to 1987 and used a stolen handgun in the murders before killing himself in domestic violence that was "planned, deliberate and targeted," police said.

Police found one victim's body on Monday and the remaining seven at a house elsewhere early on Tuesday. The killer committed suicide in a Vietnamese restaurant 19 miles (30 km) northeast of Edmonton, the capital of Alberta.

Authorities disclosed the name of the first victim, Cyndi Duong, 37, but said no other identities would be made public until autopsies were carried out on New Year's Day. The dead included two children.

Investigators have identified the suspected killer as 53-year-old Phu Lam, the Edmonton Journal reported, quoting unidentified sources. It said he was the co-owner of the house where the seven victims died.

Local media quoted neighbors as saying the gunman worked as a maintenance man at the restaurant where he died and had a history of being confrontational. Police said the weapon, a 9-mm pistol, was legally registered in British Columbia in 1987 and stolen in 2006.

Police said on Wednesday the eight murders and one suicide made the mass killing the deadliest in the history of the city incorporated in 1904. Edmonton, population 878,000, recorded 27 homicides in 2013 and 27 in 2014 prior to the killings.

Police Chief Rod Knecht characterized the murders as premeditated domestic violence - he used the words "planned, deliberate and targeted" to describe the attack - and said there was no apparent link to drugs or gang activity.

"This is a horrific event for the city and in my 39 years of policing I've never seen anything like it," he told a news conference late on Tuesday.

Thanh Le, senior pastor at the Edmonton Vietnamese Alliance Church attended by Duong, her three children and parents, said her death had devastated the congregation. "It has shocked us," he said. "There have been a lot of tears."

There are about 220,000 Vietnamese Canadians, according to the federal government, many of whom arrived as refugees in 1979 and 1980. Edmonton's Vietnamese community is one of the five largest in Canada.

Additional reporting by Nicole Mordant in Vancouver; Editing by Jeffrey Hodgson and Howard Goller

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