Homicide investigators are making a public appeal for witnesses, especially those with dashcam video, after Sunday’s fatal shooting of Surrey Sikh temple president Hardeep Singh Nijjar.
At a press conference in Surrey Wednesday afternoon, the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team’s Sgt. Timothy Pierotti said IHIT has learned that two heavy-set suspects ran through Cougar Creek Park after the shooting.
Pierotti said the suspects, who were wearing face coverings, would have ran southbound on 122 Street, through Cougar Creek Park and onto 121 Street, where a getaway vehicle might have been waiting for them.
Pierotti said it is believed the suspects were in the area for an hour before the shooting. At this time, IHIT believes the suspects are still in Canada.
Pierotti said because it is an active investigation, he could not comment on whether IHIT was working with other agencies like Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) or Indian intelligence. They are looking at possible links to other investigations, Pierotti said.
He said while the murder has shaken the community, he wanted to assure residents that Surrey is a safe place to live.
“This was a targeted incident where one person was targeted,” said Pierotti.
Police were called to the parking lot of the Guru Nanak Sikh gurdwara, in the 7000-block of Scott Road in Newton, at 8:27 p.m. Sunday and found 45-year-old Nijjar in his truck, suffering from gunshot wounds. He died at the scene.
The Sikh Community of ‘BC’/Salish Land has claimed Nijjar’s assassination was an “act of Indian government-orchestrated terrorism on Canadian soil” and @BC Sikhs tweeted that “What happened today is an act of war on Sikhs.”
Meanwhile, a close associate of Nijjar’s said his friend was warned by Canadian intelligence officials about being targeted for assassination by “mercenaries” before he was gunned down. New York-based lawyer Gurpatwant Singh Pannun says in a statement he spoke with Nijjar by phone the day before he was killed.
Pannun said Nijjar spoke about an unofficial Khalistan referendum vote seeking a separate Sikh state they had been organizing, and threats to their safety related to a reward being offered by the Indian government for Nijjar’s apprehension.
He said Nijjar told him “gangsters” indicated they were both on a hit list, and that Nijjar received a call days later from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service warning that his life was in danger.
The Integrated Homicide Investigation Team (IHIT) is asking anyone with information or dash-camera video who was in the area of 122 Street, or who was in the parking lot of the Gurdwara, to call the IHIT Information Line at 1-877-551-IHIT (4448) or contact police by email at email@example.com.
Surrey’s Guru Nanak Gurdwara president Hardeep Singh Nijjar is not the first man to have been slain in the Sikh temple’s parking lot.
Twenty five years ago, Nirmal Singh Gill, a 65-year-old temple caretaker, was beaten to death in the parking lot during his late-night watch on Jan. 4, 1998. Five young men who had ties to a neo-Nazi group called the Hammerskins were arrested for second-degree murder but pleaded guilty to manslaughter. Two were sentenced to 18 years in prison and the other three were each sentenced to 15 years in prison.
-With files from Tom Zytaruk & Canadian Press