Akalirai, who recently graduated from Gladstone High School, was attacked by a large group on Elgin Street near East 47th Avenue, just south of Memorial South Park, at about 10:30 p.m. PT, police said. Several weapons were used in the attack, including bats, clubs and a sword.
Police said the sword hasn't been recovered, but they've determined it was the weapon that killed Akalirai because of the nature of his injuries and a scabbard found on scene.
Five men aged between 19 and 21 were arrested in connection with the attack. Two have since been released. No charges have been laid.
Police said four of the five suspects were arrested at Vancouver General Hospital, where one suspect was treated for injuries.
A vehicle was also seized at the hospital, along with another from East 41st Avenue and Ross Street.
Police believe the fight originated in the house next door to the yard where Akalirai was found.
Vancouver police Const. Brian Montague said Akalirai did not have a criminal record but said there are suggestions the attack had ties to the drug trade and a loose gang connection. But in a statement sent to CBC News Thursday night, the Akalirai family denied those allegations.
"Manraj was a well-mannered, humble, and respectful individual. Contrary to police reports, we maintain Manraj had no drug or gang affiliations," the statement said.
"We are still in shock and coping with our loss."
The incident was the city’s first homicide of 2013.