Four days, four fatal shootings

With four fatal shootings in as many days and fears that the Lower Mainland is about to fall witness to another bloody gang war, police did their best to alleviate the public’s concerns by announcing the incidents weren’t linked to organized crime or even connected to each other.

The most recent shooting occurred Tuesday outside a Surrey residence. The RCMP-led Integrated Homicide Investigation Team says the body of a man in his 20s was found on the ground.

Press briefings on such incidents are typically handled by a department spokesperson. But, as if underscoring the growing unease among area residents, the spokesperson was joined by the officer in charge of the homicide team.

“These are very separate and tragic events that are only linked by the fact that they took place during this holiday season,” Superintendent Dan Malo said.

Few details about the latest slaying were released. Shots rang out in the 9500 block of 125th Street around 7:30 a.m. but no one immediately called 911. One hour later, a man’s body was spotted and a 911 call was finally made. Police could not explain the delay in the emergency call.

Much of the neighbourhood was cordoned off by police Tuesday. A black tent, presumably marking the spot where the body was found, was erected along the quiet stretch of road.

Worried neighbours ventured out into the rain, looking for answers. Some expressed concern for their safety.

“We’re looking to move out of the area now,” said one elderly woman who has lived on the street for five years and didn’t want to be identified. “But it’s not easy to up stakes and move just like that.”

David Benard, who has called the area home for 20 years, said it has become more and more dangerous in recent years.

“It makes me nervous, but there’s nothing you can do about it,” he said. “The police just can’t seem to catch these guys.”

Sergeant Jennifer Pound, a spokeswoman for the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team, said the number of shootings, particularly during the holiday season, is enough to leave anyone shaking their head.

“This is something that should stir anger in the public and make them want to come forward,” she said.

On Monday, police were called to a home in nearby Langley after receiving a report of shots fired. Police and paramedics located an injured and unresponsive 38-year-old male bleeding in his driveway. The man was pronounced dead at the scene.

The day before, on Sunday, RCMP say a Surrey convenience-store employee was shot and killed. Alok Gupta, 27, had volunteered to work on Christmas so the store’s owners could spend the holiday together.

On Saturday, 28-year-old Bradley McPherson was killed while attending a Surrey house party.

“Bradley was a fun loving man who loved his family and he was in no way involved in illegal activity,” his mother Susan wrote in a statement. “This was a senseless act which has taken a son away from his mother forever.”

A 54-year-old woman was also shot in Surrey on Sunday, though she survived the incident.

No arrests have been made in any of the shootings.

Robert Gordon, director of Simon Fraser University’s school of criminology, said the spate of shootings will likely tarnish Surrey’s reputation, though that might be a tad unfair.

“Surrey has actually been doing quite well,” Prof. Gordon said. “It has had a systematic crime-reduction strategy in place now for several years and that strategy appeared to be doing quite well.”

The number of Criminal Code offences committed in Surrey has dropped every year since 2004 – from 49,108 in 2003 to 42,674 in 2010, according to a report by B.C.’s Ministry of Public Safety.

But the same report says the number of violent offences in Surrey has remained steady over the pst half decade – from 8,447 in 2006 to 8,297 in 2010.

Sgt. Pound said the number of homicides and gunshot calls in Surrey has dropped this year, though she didn’t have exact figures available.

In the first quarter of 2009, the Vancouver area was hit by a gang war that saw shootings almost daily.