NEWS

Man shot to death in hotel where U.S. women staying ahead of soccer tournament

01/18/2012 10:10 EST | Updated 03/19/2012 05:12 EDT
VANCOUVER - Female soccer players in Vancouver for an Olympic qualifying tournament had a brush with the city's more sordid side when a young man was gunned down in a high-end hotel hosting members of three teams.

Vancouver police were called to a restaurant at the Sheraton Wall Centre on Tuesday night where a man in his 20s was assassinated in what police say appeared to be a "targeted, gang-related" shooting.

It was the second, similar fatal shooting in the same block within the past year, while another man was also shot while in a coffee shop just two blocks south in mid-December.

The Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football, or CONCACAF, said in a statement that the teams of Cuba, Dominican Republic and the United States were staying in the hotel. All team members or officials were unharmed.

But American goalkeeper Hope Solo tweeted about it: "Saved by our instant yoga session. Was about to walk to Starbucks when all hell broke loose in the lobby of our hotel! Life is precious..."

U.S. Soccer Federation spokesman Neil Buethe said the American delegation was safe and that none of its members witnessed the shooting.

"That was a little unexpected, but we weren't in the lobby," said forward Alex Morgan. "It was a little scary at first. I've never been so close to a shooting, even though we were upstairs."

The man was shot while dining alone at the hotel's Cafe One restaurant.

The gunman attacked from inside the building and then fled, and detectives were canvassing witnesses and viewing video surveillance tapes, said Const. Lindsey Houghton with the Vancouver Police.

No arrests have been made and police don't yet have any suspect details.

Houghton said there doesn't appear to be any links to other shootings in the area or with the hotel.

A 26-year-old man carrying a loaded handgun was shot to death last February just a few doors down, outside a Subway sandwich shop. Police say he, too, was targeted and known to them. As with Tuesday's death, it was the first homicide of the year.

And a 30-year-old man sitting inside a nearby Tim Hortons last month survived after a masked shooter fired and struck him.

"There are a lot of restaurants, bars, hotels, you name it. There are a lot of people who live in that area," Houghton said.

"There's nothing to suggest that specific area or those few blocks are areas of concern for these types of incidents. These types of incidents can happen anywhere in our city."

He added there's nothing to suggest the incident will spark retaliatory violence, but if police get wind of such information they will act on it.

Vancouver police put out a public warning on New Years Eve that partygoers should be wary of potential gang violence at a DJ show at an east end concert venue.

The only evidence of the shooting from outside the hotel Wednesday was a cracked window with a noticeable bullet hole through the centre.

Richard Scott, with Soccer Canada, said CONCACAF officials went to the hotel after the shooting to confirm no one was in harm's way.

"I would imagine that probably 99 per cent of the athletes would have been in their rooms at that time," he said in an interview.

On Wednesday, Solo said the experience had affected her even thought she didn't witness the mayhem.

“You start to question what life's all about. You start to think about your loved ones," she told reporters during an interview at the hotel related to the tournament.

A number of team members received phone calls from family checking on their welfare, she added.

"A lot of people reached out, making sure we were OK," she said. "We know we’re in a very safe place both in Canada and in Vancouver.

"I know our team has no second thoughts about being here."

B.C. Attorney General Shirley Bond said the province has invested $70 million in integrated units to tackle gangs and guns, giving the province more units per capita than any other jurisdiction in the country.

"It's always extremely troubling," Bond said of the homicide.

"I'm very grateful no one else was hurt. There's always that potential."

An autopsy was being conducted Wednesday.

The eight-team CONCACAF tournament begins Thursday and continues through Jan. 29.

Canada opens against Haiti on Thursday while the U.S. team begins play a day later against the Dominican Republic.

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With files from The Associated Press.

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