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Police tight-lipped on suspect in banquet-hall shooting

RCMP officers work outside a banquet hall in Richmond, B.C., where four men were shot late on Jan. 16, 2013.

Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press

For now, the hunt for whoever shot four people attending a party at a banquet-hall complex this week is focused on a man arrested within five minutes of the shooting, the RCMP say.

On Friday morning, the RCMP said in a statement that the suspect was a 26-year-old man scheduled to make a morning appearance in provincial court in Richmond.

Otherwise, they are saying nothing about the mystery man found outside the Riverside Banquet Halls when police responded to 911 calls about the shooting at around 9 p.m. on Wednesday. Four people at a party for new members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union of Canada had been shot. They were said to be in hospital in stable condition on Thursday.

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As a massive investigation was under way on Thursday, RCMP Sergeant Peter Thiessen would say only the man was arrested near the complex in an industrial area overlooking the Fraser River.

"The individual we have in custody is someone we feel was somehow related to this particular shooting," the RCMP spokesman told reporters outside the banquet hall, surrounded by yellow police tape. Nearby, officers were searching the bush by the side of the road for evidence that Sgt. Thiessen declined to discuss.

"We have not confirmed that, in fact, he is the shooter. He is a suspect and we have the grounds to arrest and we feel was involved in the shooting."

The RCMP spokesman said the individual was known to police, but didn't provide further details. He said police have determined the shooting was targeted, but it's not clear whether it was gang-related.

"We are not ruling that out at this particular point," Sgt. Thiessen said.

Instead, he said police are looking at the backgrounds of the arrested man and the four victims to seek out links that could explain the violence. Within hours of the shooting, a transit bus was sent to drive many of the witnesses at the party to the RCMP detachment for questioning, although Sgt. Thiessen suggested police could use more help.

"We're getting co-operation. We certainly would hope to get more co-operation from those that were in attendance," he said.

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The president of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union - Canada confirmed that a small number of his members – the union has 4,000 workers in the Lower Mainland – attended the private party on Wednesday night where the shooting occurred. He said it was for new union members.

In a statement, Mark Gordienko said, that three membership meetings were being held at the time of the shooting, in Surrey, Burnaby and Vancouver.

The incident came amid a spate of regional shootings. Nearby Surrey has had three targeted shootings that killed four victims since Sunday.

Sgt. Thiessen said no evidence, at this point, links those shootings to the incident in Richmond.

"We're certainly sensitive to the fact that events like this are very concerning to the public, but in this particular incident, it was within the confines of a private function, which certainly doesn't make it any better, but the risks are certainly minimized to the broader community," he said.

Still, this is not the first gun violence at the Riverside complex. Owner Bobby Ghirra recalled that a man was shot dead at a wedding reception in 2001. The incident was gang related.

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Mr. Ghirra, who wasn't on scene when this week's shooting occurred, said this latest incident was an isolated situation. "It can happen anywhere and has happened in restaurants, and in other public places. Most of our clients understand."

He added: "Danger is out there. Gangs, drugs, guns."

Mr. Ghirra said he has no more information about what happened than the police have provided to the media.

He said he is not planning any changes to the way he does business. By Thursday afternoon, RCMP had left the complex, which was reopening.

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About the Author
B.C. reporter

Ian Bailey is a Vancouver-based reporter for The Globe and Mail.  He covers politics and general news. Prior to arriving at The Globe and Mail, he reported from Toronto and St. John’s for The Canadian Press.  He has also covered British Columbia for CP, The National Post and The Province. More

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