Surrey RCMP on scene of a shooting in the Clayton neighbourhood on Saturday (June 23). (Contributed photo)

‘This is not who we are as a city’: Surrey’s top cop

Officer in Charge issues statement in wake of gun violence

In the wake of Saturday’s murder in Clayton and other gun violence in Surrey in recent weeks, the city’s top cop has issued a letter to residents assuring that police are “working non-stop to find those responsible for these deplorable crimes and bring them to justice.”

“This is not who we are as a city,” Asst. Cmsr. Dwayne McDonald writes in the letter, issued Thursday morning. “As your police chief I am committed and determined to doing everything I can to stop the continuation of this violence.”

“Surrey is a dynamic, growing city that has smart, talented youth and caring community members. We should not let our city become defined by the senseless actions of a few.”

The letter comes 3½ weeks after two high school students were shot dead in Campbell Heights, five days after the killing of Peace Arch Hospital worker Paul Bennett, 47, in Cloverdale, and days after the effectiveness of the RCMP for a city of Surrey’s size was questioned by political hopefuls.

READ MORE: Two teenage boys dead in late-night shooting in South Surrey

READ MORE: Surrey’s political hopefuls agree – change in RCMP policing model is needed

McDonald said it is not uncommon for the “effectiveness and performance” of police to be called into question after violence occurs, and “I fully accept this.”

“The Surrey RCMP is transparent and accountable to you, the residents of this city. I am confident in our policing model and proud of the performance of our officers and municipal support staff. They do an exceptional job day in and day out, often placing their lives at risk in order to serve and protect.”

Noting gang violence has “become an increasing community concern” over the past four years, McDonald cited increased enforcement action, new RCMP-led new youth initiatives and expansion of the detachment’s Surrey Gang Enforcement Team as among steps taken in response.

“This issue of gang and gun violence is playing out across the Lower Mainland, however, as a city with a large youth population, Surrey is a target for those looking to lure young people into the drug trade. Combatting this issue is my top priority,” he said.

Police have yet to suggest a motivation for the slaying of Jesse Banghal, 17, and Jason Jhutty, 16, on June 4, but have said that neither teen was known to police.

Officials with the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team told Peace Arch News Thursday that they have received tips on the Bennett murder, but are still looking for anyone with more information on the victim’s “activities and who he may have had contact with leading up to the shooting” to come forward.

They maintain the homicide “was not random,” Cpl. David Lee confirmed.

Bennett – a father of two – died in hospital after he was shot in the 18200-block of 67A Avenue around 4 p.m.on June 23.

Tuesday, CTV News shared surveillance video that is described as having captured the moments of Cloverdale shooting. It shows a silver car pull up and a dark-clothed individual get out of the passenger side. The individual runs out of view of the camera, followed by what sounds like several gunshots. The individual then runs back in view, jumps into the slowly moving car and the vehicle speeds off.

Lee told PAN that IHIT has the video “in our possession on permission from the owner.” The owner, Lee added, did not consent to media releasing it to the public.

“(Two other media outlets) possessed it, both outlets contacted us and respected our wishes/victim’s family wishes by not airing it. We thank them for that,” he said by email. “We are now determining how it was leaked and are now required to re-evaluate our investigational and external communication strategies.”

Meanwhile, a fundraiser launched to help Bennett’s family has raised more than 60 per cent of its $50,000 goal.

As of Thursday morning, just over $30,000 had been donated to the Paul Bennett (In Memory) gofundme campaign.

“His family is is surrounded by extended family and friends and they are coping as best they can given the nature of this tragic situation. They wish to thank everyone for your kindness, generosity and gracious memories of Paul,” campaign creator Tammy Larson writes in an update posted to the site Wednesday.

Contributors to the fundraiser say Bennett’s death “has left a deep void in our hearts.”

“Paul was an amazing person, and I will miss his sense of humour, his dedication and his compassion,” writes Ingrid Harrison.

“Paul was such a good human being,” notes a message left by ‘PAH Orthopaedic Surgeons.’ “A kind man, a dedicated father, and a compassionate nurse. Words can’t express the sadness we feel for this senseless loss.”

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