By Nick Eagland, Vancouver Sun
Surrey police deny that any suspects in a shooting Monday were participants in an anti-gang program for youth.
On Monday, Kash Heed, a retired police officer and former B.C. MLA who served as Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General, said a source had informed him that of the nine people arrested following a shootout in the parking lot of the Pacific Inn Resort and Conference Centre, five were students in Surrey schools and a person alleged to have had a gun was in Grade 8.
Heed said three of the accused were involved in the Wraparound (Wrap) Program, a Surrey RCMP and school district initiative that works with at-risk youth to help them stay out of gangs and the criminal lifestyle.
But following a keynote address Tuesday at the Surrey Board of Trade, Surrey RCMP Chief Supt. Dwayne McDonald told reporters that none of the suspects were involved in Wrap.
“It was a bit disappointing,” McDonald said. “It was factually inaccurate yesterday. It was reported that some of the youth or many of the youth involved in yesterday’s incident were part of our Wrap program, and that is not the case. I won’t get into too many details on that other than to say that that’s inaccurate.”
As many as 20 shots were fired between two vehicles on Monday and one person was treated for minor injuries.
McDonald confirmed youth were involved in the shooting but said Youth Criminal Justice Act provisions prevented him from going into detail that could risk identifying the suspects. He said they were known to police.
He spoke of Wrap’s successes and said police want to “do as best as we can to provide an outlet” for youth at risk through specialized programs.
“(Wrap) does have a very valuable return in that we have to engage these youth when they become at risk,” he said. “Obviously, if all we do is engage those youth that aren’t at risk, then it’s not going to do much for us. So we have to identify those who are troubled and provide them with services or surround them with opportunities to get out of that lifestyle.”
Following McDonald’s clarification that Wrap youth were not involved in the shooting, Heed said no one had contacted him to dispute what multiple sources had told him.
“I heard that three of them were Wrap kids and that came from someone that was very close to this,” he said. “I’m surprised they’re coming out and saying they’re not Wrap kids now.”
Heed said it’s possible the youth were no longer in the program but no one from Surrey RCMP was available to confirm this before deadline. The Surrey school district declined to comment.
The Wrap Program has received more than 500 referrals since it was launched in 2009 and works with youth aged 11 to 17. There are currently 94 people involved in the program, McDonald said.
– with a file from Jennifer Saltman