Police are investigating the brutal murder of a 19-year-old man who was attacked using baseball bats and a sword in East Vancouver Wednesday night.

The victim was swarmed by a group of men who viciously beat him and left him dying in the middle of the road on Elgin Street near 47th Avenue at around 10:30 p.m.

Unconfirmed reports suggest the young Vancouver resident was partially decapitated. Authorities said only that he was found with “severe injuries believed to be caused by a sword,” and that he survived long enough to be loaded into an ambulance.

He died en route to hospital.

Const. Brian Montague said the deceased does not have a criminal record but is known to police, and early indications suggest the murder was targeted.

“There are suggestions that there is ties to the drug trade. There are some loose gang connections, nothing to suggest that he is affiliated with any major gang,” Montague said.

The shocking murder, which marked Vancouver’s first homicide of 2013, rattled the residents of the quiet residential neighbourhood.

A woman at the scene told CTV News the victim was her boyfriend, a Langara College criminology student.

Five suspects, all between 19 and 21 years old, have been arrested in connection with the murder. One was picked up not far from the scene, at 41st Avenue and Ross Street, while the others were intercepted trying to check in to Vancouver General Hospital.

Two of the suspects have been released from police custody, and no charges have yet been laid. Investigators are still trying to determine whether anyone else was involved in the attack.

They are also hoping to locate the sword, in hopes of extracting valuable forensic evidence from the weapon.

Anyone with information is asked to call the Vancouver Police Department’s homicide investigation unit at 604-717-2500 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 if they wish to remain anonymous.

With a report from CTV British Columbia’s Jon Woodward