“We should never get used to hearing of young people being killed.”
That’s what Sergeant Frank Jang, the spokesperson for the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team, said when confirming that the victim of the Dec. 28 shooting in a Guildford residential neighbourhood was a 14-year-old boy from Burnaby.
Around 7:30 p.m. on Monday, in the 11000-block of 148A Street, police found the teen “suffering from gunshot wounds.”
The boy had arrived in the area by taxi when he was shot, Jang said.
“I mean, we’ve had young people, victims of homicide, in the past… But you never get used to it, and rightfully so.”
While police have not publicly identified the teen, some local media have spoken with his father, mother and sister.
However, the teen isn’t the youngest shooting victim in the city.
On Oct. 28, 1997, 14-year-old Matt Smith was found shot dead in a ditch in the 13800-block of 58th Avenue.
Sergeant Elenore Sturko, with the Surrey RCMP, said, “Regardless of their background or circumstances, the senseless loss of life is a tragedy.”
“Most of us can’t begin to fathom that someone as young as 14 years old could be shot and murdered,” she said. “It’s disturbing. It’s likely that the public has many questions about how someone so young could be involved in a lifestyle that would put them at risk for such a violent and tragic death.”
Jang added police are looking into “why anyone would want to harm this young man.”
When asked if the shooting was connecting to gang activity, Jang said Tuesday that it’s “too early to tell.”
“There’s nothing to indicate that as of yet, but that’s a moment by moment thing. That could obviously change, even as I’m speaking.”
He said when there’s a homicide, investigators will do a “very fulsome” background check on the victim.
But, Jang noted, that the 14-year-old was “known to police” and investigators “believe the victim was targeted for murder.”
He added it was “certainly not random.”
By Dec. 31, there were still no updates as to whether the shooting was gang-related or not.
The Dec. 28 incident followed another targeted shooting in Surrey, less than 24 hours earlier.
Nineteen-year-old Harman Singh Dhesi was found with gunshot wounds inside his vehicle in the area of 137A Street and 90th Avenue on Dec. 27.
Police said Dhesi was known to police and it is “believed to be a targeted incident.”
However, Jang said there was “no information, no evidence” to link the shootings on Sunday and Monday.
“We realize the timing within 24 hours, but sometimes those things happen. In the history of IHIT, we’ve seen homicides occurring close to each other in the past.”
Sergeant Brenda Winpenny, spokesperson for Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit in B.C., it’s “not common” to see 14-year-olds getting involved “to the stage where they’re being targeted and being shot.”
“Thankfully that is not a regular, common occurrence. Obviously, when it does happen, it is concerning and it is shocking,” said Winpenny, adding, “No one deserves to die, especially in this way.”
CFSEU-BC is the province’s “integrated anti-gang police agency,” which focuses not only on enforcement and suppression but also education, awareness and prevention.”
Winpenny said CFSEU-BC developed the End Gang Life program, knowing it needed to be “bold and impactful program to reach people and really encapsulate the violence that is associated with gangs and the gang lifestyle, and the true realities that are associated and how young, vulnerable people are enticed to get into this lifestyle, even at the low level of drug dealing.”
She added there are “many, many different programs available” to help youth that “find themselves either being enticed into a gang lifestyle or are in this lifestyle and are needing help to get out.”
While Winpenny said it can be “as simple as the low-level on-the-street drug dealing,” the community needs to understand the “risk factors.”
“If your child’s coming home with a new vehicle, or a different vehicle, or a new watch or extra money when he’s not working, these are all things that should send warning bells to take a closer look at and have a conversation with your kids.”
She noted it can be an “extremely dangerous lifestyle.”
“One child being involved in gang violence, or deadly gang violence, is one too many.”
What needs to be talked about, Winpenny said, is new technology and social media.
She said kids can be “savvy” on social media, and during the COVID-19 pandemic, some may be isolated or more vulnerable.
“We’ve seen social media used as a tool for gangs to try and recruit.”
– With a file from Tom Zytaruk