In the space of 18 days, Cole Anderson has witnessed a gun battle in Yaletown and the tail end of a killing spree in Santa Barbara.
“They were both such unfortunate events that happened to people and I think it’s really going to take some time to really kick in,” said Anderson, moments after watching police exchange gunfire Tuesday morning with a man believed responsible for shooting a 52-year-old man outside a Starbucks at Davie Street and Marinaside Crescent.
Anderson was in Yaletown Tuesday after recently returning from the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he studies political science. He was in Santa Barbara on May 23 when a 22-year-old man went on a killing spree near the campus, using knives, guns and his vehicle to injure and kill seven people before turning a gun on himself.
“My roommates and I, we saw him run over a kid in front of our house, drive into a car in front of our house and then he killed himself,” said Anderson, who spoke to reporters from Davie Street, which was plugged with police vehicles, officers and crowds of people.
His mother, Mary Zilba of Real Housewives of Vancouver fame, had windows in the lobby of her condo building shot out as bullets flew on the trendy strip of Yaletown, near the waterfront. It was only Sunday night that Zilba’s fellow cast member Jody Claman was in the news after her daughter, Mia Deakin, was shot in the shoulder during a drive-by shooting outside a gas station on East Hastings.
“This is absolutely tragic,” she said, standing near her son on Davie Street. “I don’t understand. I just want to keep my kids inside for a couple of weeks and not walk outdoors.”
Anderson said he and his brother were in a car at about 11 a.m. travelling east on Davie Street, between Pacific Boulevard and Marinaside Crescent, when they heard gunshots. They saw two men, who were later determined to be plainclothes police officers, engage in a gun battle with another man near the Starbucks.
The brothers didn’t witness the shooting of the victim. Several media reports identified the victim as Paul Dragan, owner of the Reckless bike store across the street from Starbucks.
Bullets also blew out a window in an unmarked police car outside Starbucks, the flying glass injuring a female officer. It’s not clear whether the officer was in the car or on the street. Bullet casings littered Davie Street, with bloodstained clothing left on the sidewalk outside the coffee shop.
The suspect was on foot and used a bicycle to flee along the seawall to an area outside the Telus World of Science, nearly two kilometres from the shooting scene in Yaletown. Gunfire was again exchanged between police and the suspect, whom police say is 61 years old. A police car on the promenade around the World of Science had one of its windows shattered in the shooting.
Both the victim and the shooter were in surgery when Const. Brian Montague, a Vancouver Police Department media liaison officer, spoke to reporters Tuesday afternoon. The victim was in stable but critical condition and the suspect was listed in serious condition and under police guard.
Montague said police haven’t established a motive and wouldn’t confirm the victim's name. No one at the bike store would comment when approached by reporters Tuesday. The store was closed after the shooting, with employees inside talking to police officers.
Montague said police were in Yaletown by coincidence when the man was shot outside the Starbucks. Police don’t believe the incident is related to gang activity or recent shootings in the city.
Police used buses to load dozens of witnesses from the shooting in Yaletown and at the World of Science to transport them to another location for questioning.
Montague didn’t know how many children were inside the World of Science when the shooting occurred. Some might have seen the shooting, he said, adding that counselling will be provided, if needed.
“I’ve been a policeman for 20 years, I can’t recall anything similar happening in the last 20 years,” he said. “Quite disturbing, no doubt about it.”
The Independent Investigations Office is investigating the details around the police shooting outside the World of Science.
Vancouver had six homicides last year and has recorded seven this year. There has been a steady decrease in homicides since the 1990s. Violent crime dropped 16.6 per cent between 2008 and 2012, according to police statistics.