Gangster's execution outside of a busy Vancouver restaurant was carefully planned: court documents
The man who killed Harpreet Singh Dhaliwal in a brazen, execution-style murder outside of a busy Vancouver restaurant last year planned the killing for weeks in advance, setting up in an Airbnb to "track down" the victim "for the purpose of killing him," according to court documents.
Francois Joseph Gauthier pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in June of this year and was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 20 years. The judge's sentencing decision was posted online Wednesday, shedding more light on the slaying.
'SHOT FROM BEHIND'
On April 17, 2021 Dhaliwal was approaching Cardero's restaurant with his brothers and another person when he was gunned down.
"He was shot from behind numerous times, including twice in the back of his head, and he was pronounced dead less than two hours later. His body had ten wounds, consistent with bullet entry; nine bullets were found in his body," Justice Heather Holmes told the court.
"When Mr. Dhaliwal was shot, his brother and the other man with them chased after and caught Mr. Gauthier, and stabbed him multiple times before running back to Mr. Dhaliwal's location. Mr. Gauthier was badly injured but was able to walk to a courtyard near Broughton and West Pender streets, where he collapsed and was found shortly afterwards."
The judge said that Gauthier was seriously injured and hospitalized for six days. She also noted that no charges were laid.
In the aftermath police described the murder as targeted and later linked it to the Lower Mainland gang conflict, which claimed 15 lives in the first five months of that year.
Holmes made mention of that in her decision, saying the court was told little about Dhaliwal during the sentencing process, with his family declining to make victim impact statements.
"He was believed to be involved in the criminal gang lifestyle, more specifically with the Brothers Keepers gang," she wrote. "That association, if it was the case, was unfortunate in the extreme."
PLANNING THE MURDER
The careful planning that went into the murder was considered by the judge to be an aggravating factor. A search of the Airbnb found a "small arsenal" of weapons, four different B.C. license plates, four cell phones, seven SIM cards, two GPS tracking devices and a "sophisticated silicone face mask," the court heard. When Gauthier was found after the murder, he had an additional cell phone and tracker.
"Mr. Gauthier's intention to track down and kill Mr. Dhaliwal was also revealed through an examination of two of the cell phones," Holmes wrote, adding information about Cardero's was part of the evidence uncovered through this search.
Gauthier also, the judge said, changed his shirt and hat after leaving his Airbnb and before shooting Dhaliwal,
"He agrees that he did so in order to alter his appearance to conceal his identity."
He wore a face mask and gloves when he gunned Dhaliwal down and used a silencer on his 22-calibre semi-automatic pistol.
OTHER FACTORS IN SENTENCING
The judge also noted Gauthier's criminal record in both Canada and the U.S. as an aggravating factor, saying the 53-year-old had "spent a very significant part of his adult life in prison."
The public nature of the shooting was another factor.
"Gun crimes are of high concern in the community, and this one took place in a public location that could be expected to be busy with people of all ages, enjoying life as they expect and are entitled to do," Holmes wrote.
"People dining at Cardero's, or casual passers-by there or on the nearby busy seawall, will have been frightened to different degrees, some with long-lasting effects."
However, Gauthier's early entry of a guilty plea was something that Holmes considered mitigating because it had the effect of sparing the many witnesses, including children, from reliving the traumatic event by testifying.
In July of 2022, Dhaliwal's brother Meninder was one of two men killed in a daylight shooting outside of a hotel in Whistler in an area popular with tourists and families.
After Harpreet's murder, Meninder's name and photo were included in a public safety warning from police that included 10 other well-known gangsters
“Police believe that anyone with, or in the proximity to these individuals may be putting themselves at risk,” the province's Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit said in its statement.
“CFSEU-BC is issuing a public warning and identifying them in order for family, friends, associates and the public to take measures to increase their own personal safety.”
The third Dhaliwal brother, Barinder, was also on that list.
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