British Columbia·Photos

Police investigating 3 Downtown Eastside shootings within 15 hours

Four people were sent to hospital after three separate shootings on Vancouver's Downtown Eastside in a period of 15 hours, with one of the incidents believed to be linked to gang activity. 

Vancouver mayor says he supports handgun ban following string of violence

An officer with the Vancouver Police Department's Emergency Response Team carries a battering ram as he walks down Hastings Street near Abbott Street on Monday morning. Officers are investigating three shootings in the area over a 15 hour period. (Gian-Paolo Mendoza/CBC)

Three separate shootings in 15 hours on Vancouver's Downtown Eastside have sent four people to hospital, with one of the incidents believed to be linked to gang activity. 

Vancouver police said the shots were fired within a kilometre of each other between Sunday afternoon and Monday morning.

Officers were called to the first incident around 4 p.m. PT in the area of Hastings Street and Dunlevy Avenue, about two blocks from Oppenheimer Park. A 50-year-old Surrey man was taken to hospital in serious but stable condition, police said.  

Police described that shooting as isolated and targeted. No arrests have been made.

Police taped off the scene on Dunlevy Avenue between Pender and Hastings Streets after they received reports of shots fired on the afternoon of Sunday Sept. 22, 2019. (Matthew McFarlane/CBC)

The second incident happened several blocks west, near Abbott and Pender streets, about two hours later. Police initially released very few details, other than to say it is not believed to be related to the earlier shooting.

On Monday, police confirmed a 28-year-old man from Langley and a 25-year-old man from Surrey were injured as a result of that shooting. Their injuries are not considered life-threatening. 

Around 6:30 a.m. PT Monday, officers were called to a third shooting in front of the Grand Union Hotel at Abbott and Hastings streets, a block to the north. Local news crews reporting on the previous two shootings were standing within earshot when the third series of shots rang out.

A 50-year-old Vancouver man was injured in that shooting and was taken to hospital with serious injuries. 

Vancouver police said in a statement Monday that all three shootings are believed to have been targeted and may be linked to gang activity. 

The force raised concerns about increasing crime levels on the Downtown Eastside last week. Officers announced they have seized 453 firearms across the entire city so far this year with nearly half coming from District 2, which includes Oppenheimer Park and the Downtown Eastside.

More officers have been stationed in the area in wake of the shootings, including gang crime specialists. The statement said a trailer with a camera will also be placed around the neighbourhood to monitor criminal activity.

Vancouver police investigators stand outside the Grand Union Hotel in Vancouver on Sept. 23, 2019. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

"We've been talking about the increased violence that's been taking place in the Downtown Eastside," said Deputy Chief Const. Howard Chow.

"Our investigative team is working very hard to try to figure out who's responsible."

'Still shaken up'

The first shooting happened outside the overdose prevention site run by the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users (VANDU) at 380 Hastings St. Two bullet holes were left in the cracked glass.

VANDU president Lorna Bird said up to 13 people work at the site and any given time and the shooting has organization worried about the safety of its volunteers.

"One girl working the front desk ... is still shaken up," Bird said, adding no one at VANDU was physically injured from the shooting.

Two bullet holes are pictured on the front door of VANDU in Vancouver, British Columbia on Monday, Sept. 23, 2019. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Evelyn Nelles, 64, has lived in in the area for more than a decade and said she's increasingly afraid to walk the streets, even during the day.

"It's getting very dangerous down here," Nelles said Monday.

Evelyn Nelles, 64, has lived in the Downtown Eastside for more than a decade. (CBC)

'It's unacceptable'

Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart called the situation "unacceptable" on Monday, adding safety in the area is the city's top priority. 

"We're very concerned about this," Stewart added. "I think we have to address the situation in Oppenheimer Park in order to move this whole thing back to normal and to make people feel safe in their communities." 

When asked if he would support a handgun ban, Stewart said he was in favour. 

"Most people in Vancouver would agree with me that handguns have no place in the city," the mayor said.

Vancouver police respond to a shooting in front of a pub at Hastings and Abbott streets on Monday morning. (Gian-Paolo Mendoza/CBC)

Livingston countered in a later statement saying the violence is "a product of the war on drugs" and tense competition in the black market, not guns.

"Cracking down on gangs, creating harsher laws and putting more police in our communities is only going to make these problems worse by disrupting the exiting markets, driving up prices and creating more intense and violent competition," she wrote.

"If we really want to end the violence that plagues our community we need to talk about ending the drug war, about safe supply, about poverty, and colonization and racism."

Anyone with dashcam or cellphone footage of any of the shootings is asked to contact Vancouver police.

The shootings spanned several blocks of Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. Four people were injured in three separate shooting incidents. Police have increased patrols in the area. (CBC)

With files from Gian-Paolo Mendoza, Chad Pawson and Andrea Ross

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