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Police agencies deny jurisdictional fight delayed Hardeep Nijjar murder investigation

Law enforcement agencies have denied allegations that a dispute over jurisdiction delayed the investigation into the murder of Surrey, B.C., Sikh leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar.

The claims were published the week in The Washington Post, which quoted a witness who described an "hours-long tussle" between the Surrey RCMP and Surrey Police Service at the scene of Nijjar's killing earlier this year.

The two departments have been operating in tandem – sometimes separately, sometimes co-operatively – for two years, since Surrey's previous city council began the slow process of replacing the local RCMP detachment with a new municipal police force.

On Tuesday, Surrey RCMP issued a statement to address what the detachment described as "misinformation surrounding the actions of our officers."

"It was suggested that there was a conflict regarding which police agency would 'head the investigation,' however as the police of jurisdiction, Surrey RCMP is responsible for all police investigations in Surrey," the statement said. "There is nothing to indicate this investigation was delayed in any way, either in the initial response or in subsequent investigative steps."

Contacted for comment Wednesday, a spokesperson for the Surrey Police Service said the force "concurs with the Surrey RCMP," calling the suggestion of a jurisdictional dispute "completely false."

"At this point of the policing transition in Surrey, Surrey RCMP is the current police of jurisdiction with operational control," Ian MacDonald told CTV News in an email.

"There would be no debate over this incident as there hasn’t been over the thousands of others attended by SPS and Surrey RCMP officers, separately and together."

The case was ultimately turned over to the RCMP's Integrated Homicide Investigation Team, something MacDonald said "all officers working" with the Surrey Police Service would have expected.

Surrey's current mayor, Brenda Locke, campaigned on a promise to reverse the city's policing transition, but required the approval of B.C.'s provincial government to do so.

In July, Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth directed Surrey to keep the SPS instead, claiming that local officials had failed to provide adequate reassurances they could maintain adequate law enforcement staffing while reverting back to the RCMP.

Meanwhile, authorities are continuing to investigate Nijjar's killing outside the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara in June, which Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently alleged may have been carried out with the involvement of the Indian government.

Though police have been tight-lipped on the details of their investigation, a spokesperson for the Gurdwaras B.C. Council revealed this week that surveillance video captured Nijjar's murder, showing a vehicle blocking him from leaving the property's parking lot. 

Multiple gunmen then emerged to open fire on Nijjar, who was the gurdwara's president, said Moninder Singh.

"It was very well co-ordinated," Singh told CTV News on Tuesday.

IHIT said it will not comment on aspects of the investigation while it remains active and ongoing.

With files from CTV News Vancouver's Abigail Turner Top Stories

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