The Integrated Homicide Investigation Team (IHIT) is looking to speak to anyone who may have witnessed the shooting death of Ripudaman Singh Malik in Surrey's Newton neighbourhood Thursday morning.
Malik was one of two men acquitted in the 1985 Air India bombings that killed 331 people, most of them Canadians. Two bombs were put on planes departing from Vancouver International Airport. One exploded off the coast of Ireland, the other in Tokyo's Narita Airport.
Surrey RCMP responded to shots fired just before 9:30 a.m. near the 8200-block 128 Street. Glacier Media confirmed the address as 8236 128th St., where a company called Papillon Eastern Imports operates. Court records show Malik was involved with the company.
Officers found Malik suffering from gunshot wounds.
“The man was provided first aid by attending officers until Emergency Health Services took over his care,” said Const. Sarbjit K. Sangha in a press release.
Malik, 75, succumbed to his injuries on scene.
A vehicle fully engulfed in flames was located nearby in the area of 82 Avenue and 122A Street; police believe it's associated with the shooting.
"The investigation is in the early stages and police are still looking for the suspects and a second vehicle that may have been used as a getaway vehicle,” said Sangha earlier Thursday.
Targeted shooting, motive unknown
IHIT has taken over the investigation and is working in partnership with Surrey RCMP, the BC Coroners Service and the RCMP Forensic Identification Section.
In a statement late Thursday, IHIT said it's aware of Malik's background, "though at this time we are still working to determine the motive."
"We can confirm that the shooting appears to be targeted," said IHIT's Sgt. Timothy Pierotti, adding police do not believe there are any further risks to the public.
“Having occurred in a residential area, we are confident that witnesses exist that could help us further this investigation. We urge them to come forward immediately and without delay.”
Anyone who was travelling in the area of 122 Street and 82 Avenue between 9:15 a.m. and 10 a.m. and has dashcam footage or information is asked to call IHIT at 1-877-551-4448 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
'A big explosion'
Neighbours around the scene of the burned-out car were urged out of their homes by police at about 9:30 a.m.
Jasmeen Kaur said the noise was "like a bomb."
She said she could see the flames from her house in the alley behind.
"There was a big explosion," she said. "It was very scary. I just ran out of the house and the police came."
She said other neighbours were also leaving their homes.
Malik's commitment was to community and family, says son
Malik's son, Jaspreet Singh Malik, shared the news of his father's death on social media.
He said his dad's commitment was to his community and his family, and his goal was to see the immigrant Sikh community thrive through education and financial security.
Malik came to Canada in 1972 and in 1986 founded the Khalsa Credit Union and Khalsa School, said the post on Facebook.
"The media will always refer to him as someone charged with the Air India bombing," Jaspreet wrote. "He was wrongly charged and the Court concluded there was no evidence against him. The media and RCMP never seemed to accept the Court's decision and I pray today's tragedy is not related."
Jaspreet said Malik is survived by his wife, five children, four daughters-in-law and eight grandchildren.
The death has brought an outpouring of condolences.
"I am deeply saddened by the death of Sardar Ripudaman Singh Malik in Canada," said Punjab political leader Paramjit Singh Sarna on Facebook.
Sarna called the loss irreparable.
"Sardar Malik ran a number of Khalsa schools and was at the forefront of humanitarian efforts in Canada," Sarna said. "My sincere condolences to his family. We hope Canadian authorities will launch a thorough investigation into his assassination and bring the culprits to book."
Delhi India Sikh temple leader Sukhvinder Singh Babbar echoed those sentiments.