RCMP blasts Surrey mayor for using fatal shooting to make political point
The RCMP is criticizing Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum for using a fatal shooting that claimed the life of a 22-year-old to make a political point.
Police were called to the area of 70A Avenue and 142 Street in Surrey's Newton neighbourhood after shots rang out around 1:30 a.m. Friday, and arrived to find the young man dead on the ground outside a home.
The victim has not been publicly identified, but police said the homicide is believed to be tied to the ongoing gang conflict in the Lower Mainland.
One witness, who did not want to be identified for safety reasons, told CTV News she heard a single gunshot followed by a short pause, then a burst of four or five more shots.
"My heart sank when I heard the gunshots," she said. "Our neighbourhood is so safe and quiet all the time."
The Integrated Homicide Investigation Team was called to the scene overnight and set up a tent in the driveway of a home.
Authorities haven't confirmed what connection the victim had to the property, if any.
Investigators spent hours searching the area for evidence and canvassing for witnesses, but haven't said whether they have any information on a potential suspect.
Doug McCallum, the city's new mayor, issued a statement Friday calling the deadly shooting "yet another example of the ongoing trauma and fear that are being inflected on the communities, residents and families of Surrey."
"This latest incident of deadly gun violence further emphasizes the need for the City of Surrey to have its own police force," McCallum added.
A city spokesperson told CTV News the mayor would not be elaborating on his comments. McCallum and the new city council voted unanimously to scrap the city's RCMP detachment, which is currently the largest in Canada.
While McCallum wouldn't comment further, the BC RCMP's deputy commissioner issued her own statement on what the mayor said.
"Statements like this risk undermining public trust and confidence in policing. With a homicide of this nature, people are already reluctant to come forward," Brenda Butterworth-Carr said Friday.
"Any erosion of public trust and confidence challenges our ability to solve complex cases with assistance from people who are often reluctant to participate in the first place. This concern is not unique to any one police force."
Butterworth-Carr said until the RCMP is no longer the contracted service in Surrey, employees must be allowed to police the city safely and effectively.
"I will not allow public confidence in policing to be undermined or eroded," she wrote.
She also expressed her sympathy for the victim's family and residents of the neighbourhood where the shooting occurred, and said Mounties and IHIT are focused on finding out who murdered the young man.
The province's minister of public safety also weighed in on McCallum's statement, saying in an email Friday afternoon that the province is working with the city as it develops a plan to replace the RCMP.
"Let's be clear. No one is putting up any roadblocks," Minister Mike Farnworth wrote.
"We are prepared to work with the Mayor – he has to be willing to work too. A new police force isn't created over the weekend, but the province is committed to working with the city as they move forward."
Calling the violence "absolutely unacceptable," he said the province has made new investments in anti-gang programs based in Surrey and in enhanced policing.
"People deserve to feel safe in their communities and their neighbourhoods," Farnworth said.
Mounties continue to work with IHIT on the investigation. Homicide investigators say there are no indications of an increased risk to the public as a result of the shooting.
They are seeking witnesses and those who might know more about what led up to the shooting. Anyone with information on the shooting can contact the IHIT tip line at 1-877-551-4448, or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.
With files from CTV Vancouver's Ben Miljure and Allison Hurst