Residents of the typically peaceful suburb of Port Moody are concerned about further gang violence after a brazen daylight shooting outside a busy Starbucks reinforced the fear that gunfire can happen any time and anywhere.
Randynesh Raman Naicker – co-founder of the Independent Soldiers gang – was fatally shot in a parking lot Monday afternoon. Witnesses reported seeing a gunman step out of a vehicle before shooting Mr. Naicker several times.
Vancouver Police spokesman Constable Lindsey Houghton said gang-related slayings are more difficult to solve because people aren't as willing to talk. He said Monday's shooting put many innocent bystanders at risk.
"It was an extremely busy area that time of day with dozens – if not hundreds – of commuters," he said in an interview with The Globe and Mail. "These people who are committing these extreme acts of violence are showing a complete disregard for public safety."
Mr. Naicker, 34, is the second gangster to be shot dead in Port Moody in less than a month. In late May, Gurbinder (Bin) Singh Toor, 35, was gunned down in the parking lot of the Port Moody Recreation Centre. He had a long criminal history and was affiliated with the Dhak-Duhre gang.
Port Moody is not the only Lower Mainland community to be rocked by gang violence in recent months. Ranjit Cheema was killed in a drive-by shooting in Vancouver in May. In late April, Thomas Gisby – who headed his own organized crime group – was shot dead at a Starbucks in Mexico. And in January, Sandip Duhre was fatally shot in a restaurant inside a downtown Vancouver hotel.
On Tuesday, the St. Johns and Queens intersection near the scene of Mr. Naicker's shooting hardly looked like a location that would be hit by gang violence. A steady stream of customers poured into the Starbucks. The well-landscaped parking lot was filled with large, grey pots of blooming flowers.
Chelsy Lumb, a 23-year-old Port Moody resident who frequently visits the coffee shop, was stunned the violence struck so close to home.
"That was the most shocking," she said. "I'm thinking, 'Should I not go to that Starbucks any more?'"
Nonetheless, Ms. Lumb met a friend for brunch at the coffee shop the day after the shooting and said it appeared to be business as usual. The only difference, she said, was that the baristas chatted about the slaying with waiting customers.
"You just kind of hope that it doesn't happen to you," Ms. Lumb said.
A man who works near the scene of the shooting – but asked not to be named – said the incident was all his customers were talking about. He said people were expressing surprise the shooting would occur in Port Moody – about 30 kilometres east of Vancouver.
Police believe Monday's shooting was targeted. Mr. Naicker was well-known to police for his gang connections. He was convicted in 2006 of kidnapping, confinement and extortion after kidnapping a man he believed responsible for a missing marijuana shipment worth $400,000. The gang Mr. Naicker co-founded is one of many in B.C. that has been linked to years of shootings throughout the Vancouver area.
No arrests have been made.
Dr. Mark Totten, an expert on gangs, stressed that while hitmen will choose a murder location based on their ability to best kill their target, people not involved in gang life have no reason to be scared.
"There are very strong ethics and morals which define gang life," he said, explaining that many gang members like to present themselves as being model citizens. "One of them is you don't kill or hurt innocent people."
But, if an opposing gang member murdered Mr. Naicker, there will probably be a retaliation attack, he said.
"This kind of tit-for-tat violence could go on for quite some time," said Dr. Totten.