VANCOUVER - The job of probing a rash of shooting deaths in Metro Vancouver may have just begun, but the man in charge of the investigations says he's already confident none of four killings in four days are related.
Five people have now been shot in total since early Saturday, with a 54-year-old woman being the only victim who has survived.
Four of the five shootings took place in Surrey — the British Columbia's second-largest city — and come at a time when politicians and academics are reporting a drop in crime rates around the province.
"Investigators are confident that there are no links between the homicides," Supt. Dan Malo, officer in charge of the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team, said Tuesday.
"These are very separate and tragic events that are only liked by the fact that they took place during the holiday season."
The string of shooting deaths in Metro Vancouver began early Dec. 24 when Bradley McPherson was gunned down outside a Surrey house party.
The second death came on Christmas Day when Surrey convenience store employee Alok Gupta, who volunteered to work so the shop owners could enjoy the holiday, was killed.
The third death was reported after police said a 38-year-old man was found unresponsive in his Langley driveway Monday night, and the fourth fatality came when a man in his 20s was found dead in Surrey Tuesday morning.
Meantime, a 54-year-old woman suffered a gunshot wound to the chest at a north Surrey apartment early Sunday morning but her injuries were not believed to be life-threatening. She hasn't been identified by police.
In Monday's Langley shooting, police received a call of shots fired at a residence just after 9 p.m., Sgt. Jennifer Pound, of the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team, said in a press release.
Police and members of the BC Ambulance Service responded and found a 38-year-old man bleeding in his driveway. Pound said the man was pronounced dead on the scene.
On Tuesday morning, Surrey RCMP received a report that a male was lying on the lawn of a north Surrey residence, and that the owners of the residence had heard shots about an hour earlier.
Police arrived to find a Caucasian man dead on the ground in a hedge area near the road.
Plain clothes officers and homicide investigators were called in to probe the incident.
"The four years I've been here this is extremely unusual ... like I've never heard of this happening before," Staff Sgt. Bruce Anderson said of the series of fatal shootings.
"What the reasoning is, or if there is a specific reason, it's unknown at this time. But this is unheard of."
Anderson said the latest Surrey incident appears to be targeted.
Municipal politicians expressed their concern at the spate of shootings.
"It's a rash of them. It's just a whole grouping of them come together. Really, very unfortunate," said long-time Surrey municipal Coun. Martin Hunt.
"I mean, let's be honest with ourselves, every one of them is a personal tragedy in some way, shape or form."
Hunt noted that the killings have occurred while the Surrey's murder rate has been dropping.
Typically, the city experiences an average of 18 homicides a year, but before the string of shootings that number had dropped to nine. The number of "shots-fired" calls to police had also fallen.
"We know the general citizen of Surrey is not packing a weapon with them so this is only a certain group of people within our city who are dealing in these types of things," Hunt said.
One academic said every incident needs to be examined before conclusions can be drawn from the string of shootings.
"The issue is exactly what happened here, who did what to whom and using what? All those questions have to be answered before you can piece together exactly what may have happened," said Rob Gordon, director of the school of criminology at Simon Fraser University.
Gordon added that the area's property crime rate and the homicide rate are also on a steady downward path, a trend that's unlikely to be turned around by the four fatal shootings.
Gordon said two of the most-recent killings happened in the open, which may suggest they are targeted.
Some of the killings may be just an awful coincidence, he added.
"It's not very seasonal. Let's put it that way," said Gordon.
"There's nothing about goodwill to men involved in all of this or goodwill to women, as well, for that matter, involved in any of this. It's nasty criminal activity."