By Salim Jiwa
Veteran drug dealer Ranjit Cheema, 44, should have stayed in jail – it would have spared his life.
Just months after being released from a five-year sentence served in a California jail, the survivor of several previous attempts on his life was shot in a hail of bullets as he emerged from the basement of his house and was getting into his truck.
He bled to death on the tarmac in front of his home after being ambushed by people who police believe stalked him for a number of days before moving in for the kill.
A family member rushed outside to put a bed sheet on his body. The bottom of the bed sheet was stained red from the blood that had been spilled on East 61st Avenue near Ross Street.
At the scene of the murder, police had placed yellow markers indicating possible spent casings from the numerous shots fired at him from a vehicle that quickly left the scene.
“I met his just ten days ago. He was walking near his home and I stopped to say hi,” said a source who did not wish to be named. “He was bound to be killed, it was inevitable.”
Cheema’s drug dealings span at least two decades if not more. In an earlier shooting, he was hit in the stomach numerous times but survived. Records show his bodyguard was shot and killed outside a wedding celebration. It is believed the target was Cheema but he escaped unhurt.
Another source who knows Cheema’s sister said she received a call at her work place from her father early on Wednesday morning. Her father did not have the heart to tell her that her brother had been shot.
“So he told her to come home from work immediately – that her mother was sick and an ambulance had arrived,” said the source who also talked on condition of anonymity.
Police identified Cheema as the victim following an autopsy, although it was immediately clear to neighbors and journalists who the victim was.
“The victim of yesterday’s fatal drive-by shooting has been identified as 44 year old Ranjit Singh Cheema. Cheema was shot as he entered his vehicle, which was parked in the 1100 block of East 61st Avenue around 9:30 a.m. on May 2nd.,” said Vancouver Police spokeswoman Jana McGuinness.
”Vancouver Police Homicide investigators are continuing their efforts to locate additional witnesses and will be canvassing in the area of the shooting again today.
”We know that residents living in this neighbourhood have been shaken by this brazen, gang-related shooting,” said McGuinness. “It was very possible that an innocent person could have been caught up in the violence.”
“We are asking anyone living nearby to think back over the past couple of weeks and let us know if they saw a vehicle idling in the area, or any suspicious persons or activity. Sometimes even a small clue can help advance an investigation.”
Anyone with information is asked to call investigators at (604) 717-2500 or Crime Stoppers at 1 (800) 222-8477.