RCMP say a man shot by police outside a shelter in the Whalley area of Surrey Wednesday morning had been chasing another man with a machete before officers opened fire.
Police were called to the stretch of 135 A Street, also known as the Whalley Strip, just after 4 a.m.
“Surrey RCMP received a call that there was a male chasing another male with a machete in an alley,” the BC RCMP said in a news release. “Police officers responded and located a man they believe matched the suspect description. During the course of the interaction with the individual, police officers fired their service pistols, striking the man.”
CTV News spoke with a man who was working in the area at the time of the shooting. He believes the victim may have been wielding the machete as he tried to get stolen personal possessions back after allegedly being robbed. The man says he heard about five or six shots.
BC Emergency Health Services told CTV in an email that the victim was taken to hospital with serious but non life-threatening injuries. Police say nobody else was hurt.
Police officers closed 135A Street between 106 Avenue and 108 Avenue for nearly 12 hours, as officers and forensic investigators combed through the scene Wednesday morning. They appeared to be focused on an area just outside the Lookout Society’s Gateway Shelter where personal possessions lay scattered on the ground.
Surveillance video obtained by CTV News shows a serious police response with multiple officers flooding the area around the time of the shooting. Two people appear to confront each other in the street, before one collapses onto the ground.
The stretch where the shooting happened has been a focal point for homelessness in Surrey and has shelter services, a safe consumption site, and several businesses — many of which were forced to close Wednesday morning to allow the investigation to unfold.
Investigators from the Independent Investigations Office were also on scene Wednesday.
"We are doing a canvas right now to attempt to obtain further evidence from witnesses," IIO Chief Civilian Director Ron MacDonald told CTV by phone from Nova Scotia. "We’re also looking for any video evidence as that’s incredibly important in circumstances such as this."
For several years, 135A Street was home to a large tent city, but the encampment was dismantled by the city last summer. Those living in the area were offered temporary housing nearby.
“If you walk or drive down 135A it’s very obvious that it doesn’t have the same issues it had, but many of those issues have just gone to other areas,” said Brenda Locke, a Surrey City councillor.
That concern has been been reiterated by many Surrey Business owners. Paul Chen has owned an auto repair shop on the Whalley Strip for five years. He says there’s been no change to the area’s high crime rate since the camp was dismantled.
“It looks better visually because the tent city is not in front of me, but it doesn’t mean they’re not here,” said Paul Chen, the owner of Centennial Auto Repair.
Chen said he's fed up and is now in the process of selling his property.
“I have to move,” he told CTV News, “I can’t take it anymore."
He said his business has been hit hard by petty crime with tens of thousands of dollars worth of break-ins and stolen goods.
The business owner believes Wednesday’s shooting is evidence the city is not doing enough.
Locke said the most recent shooting speaks to a larger issue.
“It’s a symptom of the lack of the ability to address the needs in the city,” Locke told CTV News.
The councillor believes homelessness, addictions and mental health issues need more resources.
“We could do a better job in Surrey,” she said.
Locke said all shelters in Surrey are at capacity.
City Council has given three new social housing developments the green light. They’ll be built in the Green Timbers, South Surrey, and Cloverdale neighbourhoods.
She hopes shovels will hit the ground in the fall.