Vancouver airport shooting likely gang-related; police say 28-year-old victim was known to them
VANCOUVER -- Homicide investigators say the victim of a brazen mid-afternoon shooting outside Vancouver International Airport Sunday afternoon was a 28-year-old man who was known to police.
The shooting prompted a large police response around 3 p.m. that briefly involved shutting down three Canada Line stations and several major roadways in an effort to prevent the killers from getting away.
Ultimately, however, they did get away.
Integrated Homicide Investigation Team spokesperson Sgt. Frank Jang told reporters at YVR Sunday night that an SUV found on fire in Surrey, 28 kilometres away from the crime scene, is believed to be the getaway vehicle.
At least two suspects were inside the vehicle, Jang said, adding police believe there may have been more. The shooting is believed to be connected to the ongoing gang conflict in the Lower Mainland, he added.
Now, officers are asking anyone who may have dash cam video from the route between the airport and the 9700 block of Princess Drive in Surrey - where the flaming SUV was found - to come forward and speak to police.
Some of the journey between the two locations is already known. The Richmond RCMP detachment said earlier Sunday that its officers had intercepted the suspect vehicle as it fled the scene, and that the suspects inside fired weapons at police.
No officers were injured in the incident, according to RCMP.
Both Jang and Richmond RCMP Chief Supt. Will Ng expressed disgust at the actions of the suspects and fatigue in the face of continued escalation between gangs in Metro Vancouver.
"They will stop at nothing to target rivals, even if it's at an international airport, in broad daylight, on Mother's Day," Ng said. "These people have no care whatsoever and no regard for our community's safety, and they need to be stopped."
A spokesperson for B.C. Emergency Health Services said bicycle paramedics at the airport responded to the scene shortly before 3 p.m. Two ambulances were also dispatched to the airport after the shooting, but no one was taken to hospital, according to EHS.
A large swath of the airport's departures level was behind police tape Sunday afternoon, and screens had been set up to block the public from viewing the apparent scene of the shooting.
Police seemed to be focusing their attention on a white Mercedes left at the curb outside the airport as they investigated at the scene. Luggage could be seen outside the vehicle, and as many as 20 orange cones had been set up nearby, apparently as evidence markers.
As they searched for suspects, police ordered a lockdown of "access points" to the area, prompting the closure of multiple Canada Line stations and several main roads into the city where the airport is located.
By 4 p.m., roads had reopened and the Canada Line was running to the airport again.
Jang said the most likely route between where the shooting happened and where the burning vehicle was found would be via Highway 99, Highway 91 and across the Alex Fraser Bridge.
Anyone with dash cam footage from the area is asked to contact IHIT, he said, asking people to call the IHIT information line at 877-551-4448 or stop by the Richmond RCMP detachment, where detectives will be based for the next few days.
Police will also be reviewing copious amounts of surveillance video from the airport itself, Jang said.
"Whatever footage is here, and I presume there is a lot of it, we are going to get all of it," he said. "It's going to be a mountain of work."
The Vancouver Airport Authority, which operates the airport, said in a statement Sunday night that its thoughts are with those affected by the shooting incident.
"The airport is open and safe for airport workers and those who need to travel," according to the statement. "We recommend all passengers check with their airline on their flight status if travelling today. The safety and security of our employees, community and passengers remains our priority, and we are fully cooperating with RCMP to support the investigation."
Sunday's shooting comes in the midst of escalating violence in the Lower Mainland.
Less than 24 hours earlier, a 19-year-old man was gunned down in a targeted shooting in Burnaby that police say may have been gang-related.
Several other targeted shootings have happened over the last two months, and police have expressed concern about a surge in gang violence.
On Sunday, federal Minister of Public Safety Bill Blair added his voice to the chorus of officials disturbed by the situation in the region.
"Disturbing news from Vancouver Airport this evening," Blair said on Twitter. "My thoughts are with the communities in the Lower Mainland who have been impacted by gun and gang violence far too often, particularly over the last week."