VANCOUVER Police on Wednesday announced that they are continuing to investigate a series of targeted arsons in the city’s South Slope neighbourhood caused by suspects throwing Molotov cocktails.
The first fire occurred on Tuesday, September 2 shortly after 4 a.m. The residents of a home on East 61st Avenue near Knight Street woke to a loud noise and flames inside their living room.
The second incident happened two days later on September 4 on East 62nd Avenue. Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services and the VPD were called after a fire was set at about 3:40 a.m. to the detached garage of the house.
The third fire was set early Tuesday at about 4 a.m. at the rear of a home in the same area as the first two arsons. The fire caused minor damage to the garage. This last victim lives very close to the first two fires and investigators believe that they were not the intended target.
Police believe that all of the arsons are the result of an ongoing gang conflict. There is a concern that as the incidents continue to occur, there is a potential for injury or loss of life.
In all three cases, the suspects fled on motorcycles. Police are asking for anyone with information to call the Vancouver Police Major Crime Section at (604) 717-2541 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.
IN The VOICE of August 16 in our story “Vancouver’s South Slope is out of control as two South Asian groups of youths go at each other once again,” we had revealed that Jaskaran Singh Heer, 19, who had been charged with possession of a restricted weapon, unauthorized possession of a firearm in a motor vehicle, and possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose earlier that month by Vancouver Police is alleged to be one of the key figures in the ongoing gang conflict between two South Asian groups of youths.
The VOICE was the first to report about the conflict last February in an article titled “Is South Slope of Vancouver headed back to notorious days of Bindy Johal versus Dosanjh brothers type of rivalry?”
Heer was one of four male occupants of a car that police officers searched at the Esso gas station at Kingsway and Victoria Drive on August 7 and located bear spray and a bag containing a .44 calibre revolver, a box of ammunition and gloves.
The Vancouver Police Gang Crime and Major Crime Units said they have been investigating a number of shootings, assaults, arsons and other acts of vandalism, all believed to be related and linked to the two opposing groups.
Police sources told us that it all started “over petty stuff just like Johal and Dosanjh over high school things – a girl was involved and then as they got older, they have continued to hate each other and now its escalated to murder because some of them have gotten into criminal activities like drugs and now they answering to higher ups in the South Slope and that’s causing this violence to pick up.” These youths have been “robbing stores, stealing cars, selling drugs, cell phone stuff.”
Police sources told me last month that now the rivalry “is out of control.” They added: “They are driving around with loaded guns in their cars. It is similar to the Sanghera versus Manj group where they started doing this thing and then progressed.”
We reported: “Police sources said that basically it’s a conflict between two groups of South Asian youths, from four different families. There are two main players and each of them has a special friend.
“Last week, multiple shots were fired at East 22nd and Slocan Street at the house of one of the alleged chief players. Fortunately, no one was injured.”
Police sources also told us: “Parents aren’t involved – it’s the kids. These are the new kids who are following in the steps of the Sanghera group. Violence is happening … shootings, assaults, arsons: a garage that was burned last week in the 400 East block of 63rd Avenue.” A friend of one of the chief players reportedly lives in that house.
“Violence is escalating to the friends and associates of the two groups,” the sources noted.
They added: “They are volatile groups. The parents don’t get it. We’ve told them to stop giving their kids their cars and all the money they need to go and do this stuff. Keep an eye on them and be strict.
“The parents’ response is quite ridiculous – they are basically saying ‘well, you know a fight is a fight’ or ‘we can’t control them.’”
Last March, Vancouver Police seized a large quantity of drugs, money and ammunition in an investigation from Vancouver to Chilliwack, Abbotsford and Surrey in Project Trio and that, according to police sources, involved one of the two major players in the ongoing conflict.
They told The VOICE last month: “We’ve been seizing lots of weapons and stuff. It’s ridiculous how much violence we deal with.”
They said: “This conflict started over the last few years and it just progressed. This conflict also involves the murder of that kid Akalirai. [January 23 death of Manraj Akalirai, 19, of Vancouver, was brutally slain on January 23, 2013. He had just graduated from Gladstone High School and was attending Langara College.] … They are the same groups that are involved … because that murder happened on the front steps of the house of [one of the chief players in the ongoing conflict].”
They added: “It’s not just your school fight anymore – this is violence where we’ve had a murder, we had shootings, we’ve had assaults, we’ve had arsons, we’ve had all these violent acts in retaliation and basically it’s going to continue – it’s volatile.”