Victim identified in deadly afternoon shooting at Vancouver International Airport
Karman Grewal had previously been targeted and police warned in 2017 that he was a threat to public safety
RCMP have identified the victim of a fatal shooting at Vancouver International Airport on Sunday as a longtime gang associate who was the subject of a rare public warning more than three years ago.
Karman Grewal, 28, was shot and killed outside the airport's departures terminal in front of several witnesses around 3 p.m. PT.
He was well known to police, officers said Monday, and his death is believed to be related to the ongoing gang conflict in B.C.'s Lower Mainland. More than 10 people have been shot since mid-April.
"As members of the public, you are undoubtedly and deservedly concerned … I can advise you that we are working around the clock in both overt and covert investigations to hit these gangsters at every possible turn," said RCMP Asst. Comm. Dwayne McDonald.
The mid-afternoon shooting sent travellers scrambling for cover. Simonne Chalifoux, 58, told CBC News she saw bullets ricochet off the glass as she was sitting near a terminal window to wait for her flight home to Whitehorse.
"I'm staring out the window and … the next thing you know, 'bam, bam, bam, pop, pop, pop.' It was so fast, so consecutive," said Chalifoux, who had been in B.C. to care for her father after surgery for a stroke.
"I'm like, 'Holy crap, this just happened.' It took about 10 seconds to resonate … and then I realized I had to get out of where I was sitting immediately."
WATCH | Simonne Chalifoux recalls how she selected a seat in an airport alcove and then heard the shooting:
Questions about suspects' escape
RCMP faced a series of questions Monday as to how the suspects escaped the airport, known as YVR.
The airport is secluded on an island in Richmond, B.C., with a dedicated police and security presence. The major routes and bridges off the island were shut down after the shooting, but the suspects were able to get away.
Police intercepted the getaway vehicle — described as a red or maroon Honda Pilot — but suspects shot at the responding officers. They did not fire back or chase the suspects out of concern someone in the area might get hurt, officials said.
The suspect vehicle was last seen in the area of Sea Island Way and Garden City Road.
WATCH | Fatal Vancouver airport shooting appears to be linked to gang violence:
"That airport is immediately accessible to a majority of thoroughfares. When criminals commit crime, they don't play by the rules," said McDonald.
"There's people in cars, everywhere," the officer continued. "Unlike the movies, when bullets start to fly, they eventually stop somewhere … we can't take that chance to allow a gun battle to rage through the streets."
The killing was the first deadly shooting at the airport, though there was an attempted murder there in 2015. Chalifoux said RCMP officers on scene Sunday seemed shocked.
"It really will stick in my mind how shaken up the members were themselves," she said.
Grewal targeted before
Grewal had previously been targeted in a gang-related shooting. RCMP released his photo, along with those of four other men, after a series of shootings in 2017. Officers said the men were still targets and a threat to public safety, as they had not co-operated with investigators.
Two of the five men included in the public warning are now dead, including Grewal.
"If someone remains in the gang lifestyle, it stops in only one of two ways: jail or death. It's as simple as that," said McDonald.
Charge laid in 2nd weekend shooting
The shooting at the airport was the second in Metro Vancouver in as many days. On Monday, the RCMP's Integrated Homicide Investigation Team (IHIT) announced a murder charge had been laid in a shooting that left one man dead and hurt an innocent bystander in Burnaby, B.C., on Saturday.
Ahmed Riyaz Tahir faces one count of first-degree murder in the death of Blerton Dalipi, who was known as Toni.
Dalipi, 19, was shot after leaving a business on 6th Street between 12th and 13th Avenue. He died in hospital.
RCMP revealed Monday a second man was hit by a stray bullet. He later showed up in hospital with gunshot wounds and is expected to recover from non-life threatening injuries.
"This individual is an innocent victim and he just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time," said IHIT Supt. Dave Chauhan.
According to court records, Tahir was charged with attempted murder in a New Westminster, B.C., shooting in 2019.
The attempted murder charge was stayed and Tahir was given a five-year firearms ban and a one-year peace bond in December 2019.
Public safety minister addresses shooting
Monday afternoon, Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth assured reporters that there is "considerable sharing of information between police forces" when asked whether a regional police force was needed to tackle the gun violence issue after the rash of recent shootings across different municipalities and police jurisdictions.
"We have the integrated Homicide Investigation Team drawn from communities across the Lower Mainland, for example, the same with CFSEU right across the province (Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit B.C.)," he said. "They work very closely together."
Farnworth explained that approximately 40 per cent of guns brought to B.C. come from other parts of the country and the remainder are often transported across the border.
He says the province is working with the federal government to tighten security at the border to stop firearms from being brought to Canada from the United States. Farnworth added that both the federal and provincial government have brought in legislation to control firearms.
"We also brought in our own legislation around guns and gangs requiring tighter storage rules and regulations around how they're used — the banning, for example, of imitation firearms," he said.
- A previous version of this story stated three of the five men included in the 2017 public warning have since died. In fact, the CBC has only confirmed two of the deaths.May 10, 2021 4:15 PM PT
With files from Ana Komnenic