The man shot dead in Cloverdale on Saturday afternoon has been identified as Paul Bennett, a 47-year-old father of two children who coached minor hockey in the area.
Bennett, who worked as an operating-room nurse department manager at Peace Arch Hospital in White Rock, coached the Atom C3 Titans last season, his first as a hockey head coach, according to team manager Tamara Edwards.
“He was a great coach, son, husband, and father to two boys and a champion for the sport,” Edwards told the Now-Leader in an email Sunday morning.
The shooting happened at around 4 p.m. Saturday (June 23) in the 18200-block of 67A Avenue.
Surrey RCMP fielded a number of calls about shots fired in the Clayton area. When they arrived on scene, officers found a man with gunshot wounds. He was taken to hospital, where he died.
To gather evidence, the RCMP’s Integrated Homicide Investigation Team (IHIT) is now working with its partners from Surrey RCMP, the Integrated Forensic Identification Services and B.C. Coroners Service.
“This investigation is in its early stages and we need everyone with any information about this homicide to come forward,” stated Corporal Frank Jang, of IHIT, early Sunday.
According to an IHIT news release Sunday afternoon confirming Bennett’s identity and age, Jang said police believe “this was not a random incident. Investigators are working to determine motive.”
“We are releasing Mr. Bennett’s name in an effort to determine his activities and who he may have had contact with leading up to the shooting,” Jang said. “We need those with information about this murder to come forward and speak with IHIT.”
Anyone with information is asked to call the IHIT information line at 1-877-551- IHIT (4448), or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Just this month, Bennett was featured in a video presented by Peace Arch Hospital Foundation, explaining “the ABCs of laparoscopic surgery.”
Foundation executive director Stephanie Beck told Peace Arch News that Bennett was considered exemplary by foundation staff and hospital staff alike.
“He was so well-respected in the hospital, a superstar in the OR,” Beck said. “He was extraordinary.
“Paul was always the first to volunteer to meet with donors and show them around the OR. He did tours all the time for us.”
In a statement released to PAN Monday by Fraser Health public affairs consultant Tasleem Juma, Bennett is described as “a well-respected and loved Peace Arch Hospital staff member.”
“The circumstances of his passing are incredibly tragic and our thoughts are with his family at this time. He was a passionate advocate for patients and patient care. Staff at our hospital are shocked and deeply saddened, and we are supporting them today and will continue to support them in the coming days.”
Last hockey season, Bennett coached his Titans to a gold medal at a Spring Break tournament in Squamish, where the nine- and 10-year-olds went undefeated and earned first place after an exciting shootout.
“We had finished dead-last in our local Cloverdale tournament in January, so it was a remarkable turnaround for the kids,” team manager Edwards said at the time.
“You can imagine the excitement and pride of the players, as well as the coaches and parents. We fought hard during the season and had some tough turns and managed to pull together in the end to do the unthinkable, and beat every team, win every game, and walk away with the gold.”
Edwards said the team’s wonderful season involved participating in two parades, including the lighted-truck one in Cloverdale at Christmas and also the “Hometown Hockey” event at Surrey Civic Plaza.
“For our head coach, Paul Bennett, it’s his first turn at being head coach. Our assistant coaches are Christian Len and Rob Lawrence,” she said in March.
Bennett’s Facebook profile indicates he was originally from Bath, Ontario.
In a statement Sunday morning, Cloverdale Minor Hockey Association president Marty Jones said a “beloved member of our Family has been taken from us, a husband, a father, a brother, a friend and a coach.”
Jones’ son played on the Titans team coached by Bennett last season.
“We live life together. We journey, we celebrate, we rally and we grieve. Today is one of those times when we grieve,” Jones wrote in a message posted to the hockey association’s Facebook page.
“Paul Bennett devoted much of the past number of years investing in the lives of the young boys and girls of CMHA.
“To say Paul has touched the lives of many would be an understatement. I am truly grateful as a first-hand witness of this.
“We are heartbroken, but our Family needs each other now, and Paul’s Family needs us.
“In the days ahead we will look to the best way for our community to rally and support the loved ones he left behind. In the meantime, hug your sons, your daughters, those grieving and reflect on how our lives are enriched by his time with us.
“Each of you are in my prayers.”