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Downtown Vancouver shooting linked to B.C. gang war

Jagraj Atwal escaped injury, as did his passenger when two gunmen ran up and opened fire as he idled his dark SUV in a lane.
A Vancouver police officer walks past a black SUV surrounded in evidence markers after shutting down part of Robson Street for a shooting incident in Vancouver, Saturday. ETHAN CAIRNS, THE CANADIAN PRESS

VANCOUVER — The botched attempt on the life of a Brothers Keepers gangster on a busy downtown Vancouver street on Saturday was the second in a week targeting a member of the violent mid-level drug gang.

Jagraj Atwal escaped injury, as did his passenger, at about 5:40 p.m. when two gunmen ran up and opened fire as he idled his dark SUV in a lane near Robson and Richards streets.

According to surveillance videos and photos posted to social media, Atwal’s SUV lurched forward and hit another vehicle after the shooters, wearing masks and heavy jackets, got out of a white sedan two cars behind Atwal and started blasting away.

The passenger in the targeted SUV jumped out and ran for their life. The shooters ran back to their car and fled.

Vancouver Police Sgt. Steve Addison said Monday there were no updates in the case. Earlier in the weekend, he said the target was someone known to police and linked to gangs and that police were concerned about possible retaliation.

On March 26, Amandeep Kang, another Brothers Keeper gangster, was wounded in a shooting in Surrey’s Cloverdale neighbourhood about 10:44 p.m.

Surrey RCMP said in a news release that night that “a male victim [was] suffering injuries consistent with having been shot.” They didn’t name the victim, but Postmedia sources confirmed it was Kang and he is expected to recover.

Last fall, Kang pleaded guilty in B.C. Supreme Court to drug trafficking on behalf of a criminal organization, as well as conspiracy to traffic across the province.

The charges, which were laid in 2021, stemmed from a three-year investigation by the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit into the Brothers Keepers.

Kang admitted that over several months in 2019 and 2020, he peddled fentanyl, heroin, methamphetamines and cocaine, along with several associates, in various B.C. communities.

The case is scheduled to be back in court this week for sentencing.

Former solicitor general Kash Heed, a longtime Vancouver police officer, said Monday that the would-be hit men are likely from out of province, given where they chose to strike.

“These are hired guns who have no sense of the area that they are in and no regard for the safety of anyone in that area,” Heed said. “We haven’t seen a brazen public shooting in the downtown entertainment area like this for some time.”

Three years ago, another Brothers Keepers gangster, Harb Dhaliwal, was shot to death in Coal Harbour on a busy Saturday night. The hitman, from Quebec, later pleaded guilty.

The Brothers Keepers have been deeply involved in the B.C. gang conflict in recent years with both members killed and convicted in high-profile murders. Their biggest rivals are members of the United Nations gang, and some in the so-called BIBO/Kang and Latimer group, which has recently realigned itself with the Wolfpack gang, sources said.

Part of the conflict is related to attacks that have occurred between rivals inside B.C. jails.

The chaos after Friday’s shooting left people in the vicinity scrambling for cover.

Mayor Ken Sim, who was in the area to attend a concert, went to the scene to get a briefing from police.

“There was an incident here. Public safety was at risk,” Sim said. “I don’t have more to say at this point in time.”

One eyewitness who called 911 said a couple dozen people ran into an IGA store to shelter after the shots rang out.

He said the shooters’ white sedan pulled up behind Atwal’s black SUV in an alleyway next to the Hilton Vancouver ­Downtown hotel.Another witness said a woman was crying and being attended to by firefighters. The witness said she emerged from the central library and saw ­people running in all directions.

Cyclists ditched their bikes in the middle of the street.

An employee at a nearby liquor store said he heard several gunshots. Some people ran into the store for cover.

Later in the evening, as soccer fans flooded Robson Street following a Whitecaps game at B.C. Place stadium, work crews were observed boarding up the side of a Tim Hortons that had its windows shattered.