The widow of a Surrey man gunned down in a case of mistaken identity is asking why police aren’t doing more to crack down on violent gangsters.
It comes amid a spike in targeted, gang-related shootings and killings across the region, many of them in crowded public places.
Darlene Bennett’s husband Paul, a popular hockey coach and nurse, was shot dead in front of their family home in 2018.
As the third anniversary of his murder approaches, she says she fears other families will face the same torment hers has.
“I don’t want their sympathy, I don’t want their empty words. I want their action,” Bennett told Global News.
“I would have never in a million years thought this would have happened to our family that, you know, Paul sitting in our driveway, someone would come up and just assassinate him, you know?” she added.
“You know, bullets don’t follow linear lines. They hit things. They ricochet. I mean, any time you’re in a public space, you put people at risk, you put people in danger. And that’s just not acceptable. No one deserves to die like that. No one.”
There have been five shootings in the last week, three of them deadly. One of the victims was a B.C. Corrections officer.
On Wednesday, the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit, the province’s integrated gang force, pledged to get a handle on the violence.
“We will do whatever we can within our authority and the powers we have and our resources available,” CFSEU Sgt. Brenda Winpenny told media.
The anti-gang agency wouldn’t comment on what those tactics might look like, but at the height of the regional gang war a decade ago police were very public about their tactic of identifying and disrupting gangsters out for a night on the town.
In 2009, police had 24-hour-a-day surveillance on Abbotsford’s notorious Bacon brothers that was so visible that the youngest Bacon filed a harassment complaint.
“We had to come up with some solutions. We were well on our way to becoming the murder capital of Canada in 08/09,” former Abbotsford Police Chief Bob Rich told Global News.
Rich said the department’s strategy was simple: Make Abbotsford an uncomfortable place to be a gangster.
“We started asking our businesses, ‘Don’t serve these people,'” Rich said.
“Don’t lease them a car they can get armored … Go to the bars, ‘I’m sorry these people should not be in your bar, we’re kicking them out, we ask you not to let them back in,’ go to the gyms and say, ‘These people should not be in your gym, they’re putting your other customers at risk.'”
The process worked, at least in the short term. The city went from having among Canada’s highest murder rates to zero murders by 2011.
As the region grapples with a new generation of up-and-coming gangsters, Bennett said police need to do whatever it takes to stop the violence.
Until then, she said her husband’s final moments flash before her eyes every time she hears of another gangland shooting.
“I relieve that moment, everything I heard, everything I saw. I mean, my nurse brain was going a mile a minute, and I knew there was nothing I could do, I knew his injuries were beyond my capabilities — it’s hard to watch your husband die in front of your eyes.”
“People always say ‘wrong place, wrong time.’ How can your home … be the wrong place? We didn’t invite trouble in.”