Shooting victim ID'd as MMA fighter as police voice concerns about rising gang violence in Metro Vancouver
VANCOUVER -- Police from across Metro Vancouver gathered to give an update on escalating gun violence Thursday following the region's third shooting death in less than a week.
The latest murder victim, who was gunned down in broad daylight outside a popular recreation centre in Langley on Wednesday, was identified by police as 46-year-old Todd Gouwenberg.
Gouwenberg had significant criminal connections, including to the notorious United Nations gang, according to the B.C.'s anti-gang task force, the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit.
“His involvement in gangs spans almost 20 years,” CFSEU Asst. Commissioner Manny Mann told reporters.
The Integrated Homicide Investigation Team confirmed that Gouwenberg, who lived in Langley, was an MMA fighter before his death.
A 2012 interview posted on YouTube features a fighter with the same name who was training at a Langley gym.
“I’ve always been a fighter,” the man says in the video.
Gouwenberg is the third person to be killed in Metro Vancouver since Saturday, though his death is not believed to be connected to the other two murders.
Harpreet Singh Dhaliwal was shot and killed Saturday night outside of a restaurant in Vancouver's Coal Harbour neighbourhood. Police said Thursday they plan to provide a “significant update” on the case within the next few days.
Dhaliwal’s death is also believed to be gang-related.
Bailey McKinney is the youngest of the recent victims. The 20-year-old, who was known to police, died after being shot at a basketball court in Coquitlam
McKinney’s mother Lianne says her son was in the process of trying to get his life back together after making bad decisions in the past.
“He’d seen the error of his ways and was changing his life,” she said Wednesday. “He was just a kid.”
The Integrated Homicide Investigation Team said it's still trying to determine a motive, including whether gang activity may have been involved.
There have been 15 gang-related murders in B.C. so far this year, a number that is concerning to police. They say “suppression efforts” and patrols will be increased around the Lower Mainland.
As for what is causing the increase, CFSEU believes some of the violence is linked to previous conflicts that have been ongoing for decades, but there are several other factors at play.
“New and quickly changing alliances and allegiances, family connections, competition over drug lines, backstabbing, and debt collection,” Mann said.
Police are also asking from assistance from the public when it comes to suspicious vehicles in their neighbourhood, given the increase in getaway vehicles being burned after murders.
“If you see a suspicious vehicle in your neighbourhood that has gas canisters in it and you don’t recognize it, call us,” Supt. Lisa Byrne with the Vancouver Police Department said.
“The last thing we want is an innocent bystander to be caught up in this."