Homicide investigators say a nurse and popular minor hockey coach who was gunned down in the driveway of his Cloverdale home in June was not the intended target of the attack.
Paul Bennett, a 47-year-old father of two, was leaving his home in the 18200-block of 67A Ave. on June 23 when he was shot multiple times. He was rushed to hospital, but died of his injuries.
At the time, police said the shooting was not a random incident.
But at a press conference on Thursday, the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team (IHIT) said it had determined that Bennett’s slaying was a case of mistaken identity.
“Mr. Bennett was not known to police, he did not have a criminal record, and he had no associations to any form of criminality,” said IHIT spokesperson Cpl. Frank Jang.
“After careful examination of all the information gathered so far, our investigators believe that Mr. Bennett was the unintended victim of a targeted shooting.”
Police say a suspicious four-door, newer model Honda Civic was seen in the area at the time of the shooting, and are looking to speak with anyone who may have seen it.
Jang said investigators’ priority now is to determine who was the intended target of the shooting.
“We never thought he would die in such a senseless and violent way,” Bennett’s wife Darlene said Thursday, holding back tears.
“There was a complete disregard for public safety as he was murdered in a quiet residential area. We are grieving and traumatized by his loss and praying to understand why this has happened to our family.”
In a statement read to reporters, Bennett described her husband as a man who “wore his heart on his sleeve and was a presence in the room.”
“He was a people person, and relished to be around others. He volunteered his time freely, whether it be to coach the boys in sports or to pick up unfilled call shifts at the hospital,” she said.
“He loved being a nurse, especially working in the operating room. He found his element in the midst of chaos.”
Bennett also issued an emotional plea for anyone with information to come forward.
The news that Bennett was an unintended innocent victim of a targeted shooting came as a shock to many in his quiet, family-oriented community.
One neighbour, who didn’t want to give his name, said he’d just moved to the area from another part of Surrey.
“It’s unsettling, unnerving, especially having a young family and wanting to be in a community that seems to have a lot of young families,” he said.
“It doesn’t feel good to hear about something like that close to home and it’s a bit surprising.”
Bennett’s house backs on to the playground of Adam’s Road Elementary School, where kids are playing today, watched closely by parents trying to shield them from the latest news.
Paul Bennett worked as an operating room nurse at the Peace Arch Hospital, and coached a team with the Cloverdale Minor Hockey Association (CMHA).
League members recall him as a popular and successful coach with a passion for working with kids. He was also respected at the hospital, and remembered as a “passionate advocate for patients and patient care.”
Anyone with information is asked to call the IHIT information line at 1-877-551-IHIT (4448), or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Should you wish to remain anonymous, please contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).
-With files from Janet Brown