This article, written nearly 5 years before the infamous ‘A history of organized crime in the Indo-Canadian community‘ article (also by Kim Bolan), showcases many of the gang-land events and deaths that have plagued the South Asian Community.
Please find the original article below:
Gang slayings escalate:
Two years after the murder of notorious cocaine dealer Bindy Johal, an increasing number of young Indo-Canadian men are falling victim to the kind of violence associated with drug dealing and gangs.
Published: Friday, October 20, 2000
by Kim Bolan
A young man is forced to swallow gasoline before being lit on fire. Another is gunned down outside a wedding attended by a high-ranking politician. A third is shot to death in his basement suite: a silencer is used to reduce the disruption in the quiet residential neighbourhood.
These are just some of the gangland slayings of young Indo-Canadians across the Lower Mainland in recent months.
Despite the public feuding and higher media profile of late gang leaders like Bindy Johal and Ron Dosanjh in the mid-’90s, a Vancouver Sun investigation has found more young Indo-Canadians are being caught in gang violence since the demise of the big-name players.
In September, three Indo-Canadians were shot, one fatally. In August, there were two shootings of Indo-Canadians, one fatal. In July, 30 shots were fired at two Indo-Canadian brothers outside a Port Coquitlam gym.
One died, the other survived. And in May, a 21-year-old Indo-Canadian bodyguard for a known gangster was gunned down outside a west-side Vancouver wedding.
With six murders and several other shootings this year, it has been the worst string of violence affecting young Indo-Canadians since Johal, the notorious cocaine dealer, was assassinated on the dance floor of a Vancouver nightclub in December 1998.
There were four high-profile gang hits that year, one more than in 1994, when Johal is believed to have killed rival Ranjit Singh (Ron) Dosanjh and his brother Jimsher (Jimmy) Dosanjh. A neighbour of Johal’s, Glen Olson, was also killed — police believe by accident.
Police and experts say the violence is in part related to a leadership void in gang circles. Instead of the big personalities of the 1990s, finger-wagging and threatening their enemies on the nightly TV news, there are more young, unknown players getting caught up in the lifestyle and trying to make a name for themselves.
And they say the growth of marijuana as a local, albeit illicit, cash crop has meant more dealing, more money and more disputes.
“This much is obvious — disputes arise within these criminal groups and they will resolve their disputes without lawyers,” said Simon Fraser University criminologist Rob Gordon, who has studied Lower Mainland gangs extensively. “Disappearances leave a vacuum and people attempt to move in.”
The violence is not limited to the Indo-Canadian community — the three most recent gangland slayings, all this month, involved white men. One was associated with the Hells Angels and another, Jean Marc Mandoli, connected to a Vietnamese gang.
Police said a third shooting in Surrey earlier this week was drug-related.
But the fact that a disproportionate number of Indo-Canadians have been caught up in the violence has community leaders alarmed.
So alarmed that they have organized a series of seminars — addressed by the head of the Vancouver police department drug squad — at Vancouver’s Ross Street temple this month.
Gurnam Singh Sanghera, a social worker and organizer of the seminars, said his intention is to educate community activists, parents and youth about drugs, gangs and their negative impact on any community.
“The problem is two-fold,” Sanghera said.
“Part one is we don’t know how much drugs we have in our community, where they come from and who the dealers are and part two is some people are closing their eyes and not admitting there is a problem.”
Many of the young men involved hooked up with their associates in Lower Mainland high schools. Several attended John Oliver and David Thompson secondaries in south Vancouver, or Surrey’s Khalsa School.
High schools with large populations of ESL students are prime recruiting grounds for gangsters, Detective Constable Doug Spencer of the Vancouver police department gang squad said this week.
Rishi Singh attended John Oliver. The 20-year-old’s murder in February was one of the most gruesome recent gangland slayings.
He was forced to swallow gasoline before being lit on fire.
His charred body was found near Squamish and his car was discovered in Surrey.
He was said to have been a nice kid who got caught up in a cocaine deal that may have cost him his life.
Squamish RCMP Corporal Hugh Winter said his detachment is handling the Singh case with the assistance of serious crime and gang investigators from other Lower Mainland forces. No charges have been laid, but Winter said: “We have persons of interest in this investigation.”
Just like Rishi Singh, everyone who knew Gurpreet Singh Sohi, also 20, praised him as an intelligent, athletic young man adored by his family and friends. He also graduated from John Oliver after finishing Grade 10 at Surrey’s Khalsa school.
But Sohi’s short life ended Sept. 14 when he was gunned down in the Delta basement suite where he lived. A friend waiting in a car outside called police after seeing two men leave the house. Police found Sohi’s bloody body inside.
A former associate and classmate at John Oliver, Hardeep Singh Uppal, 20, has been charged with second-degree murder. Two other men, 21-year-old Ravinder “Robbie” Soomel of Vancouver, and 23-year-old Gurwinder “Gogi” Mann, of Surrey, are facing first-degree murder charges.
Delta police said Sohi had recently become known to them and that a criminal charge against him was in the works at the time of his murder.
Sources say he was involved in transporting marijuana across the border for sale to California dealers. A dispute over $150,000 in profits allegedly led to the murder.
The week before the Sohi murder, there was a late-night shooting at the Soomel house, in the 1200-block of East 59th in south Vancouver. As a car of young men arrived home from a party early that morning, someone in the bushes opened fire on them.
Raj Soomel, 26, brother of the accused in the Sohi murder, was shot and wounded, as was his friend, Parmjit Singh Gill.
Vancouver police say there was an exchange of gunfire, although no one has been charged. An AK-47 and some spent shell casings were found at the scene.
Just two weeks earlier, the body of 26-year-old Manmohan Singh “Manny” Tiwana was found slumped at the steering wheel of his car across from an elementary school in the Fleetwood neighbourhood of Surrey. He had been shot in the head at point-blank range.
Surrey RCMP say the investigation remains active, but no charges have been laid.
Earlier in the month, Sanjeev Gill got shot about 2:15 a.m. outside the popular Vancouver watering hole, Bar None. He survived the attack. Vancouver police are investigating.
Gurinder and Bobby Johal, 22 and 24 respectively, were at a Port Coquitlam gym working out July 27 when they were approached and shot with dozens of people nearby. The local head of the RCMP has a membership at the same gym.
Gurinder died and Bobby survived, although he has not been very cooperative with police, Port Coquitlam RCMP Corporal Peter Markgraf said.
A community source said Bobby, who is no relation to Bindy Johal, has received additional threats and fears for his life. Bobby was often seen with Gurinder Singh Khun Khun before the latter was gunned down in front of his south Vancouver home in 1997.
Police can’t say for sure that the brothers’ shooting is gang-related, but that’s the suspicion. “That is still all conjecture, but there are leads that we are following,” Markgraf said. “It is fairly obvious that it wasn’t random.”
The assassination of Surrey’s Mike Brar last May probably got more attention than any gang murder since Bindy Johal’s last dance almost two years ago.
In part, the high profile was because Brar was taken down by a shadowy figure in a park outside a west-side Vancouver wedding attended by hundreds of guests, including Premier Ujjal Dosanjh.
Brar was also a former associate of Bindy Johal and when murdered, he was acting as a bodyguard for accused international cocaine trafficker Ranjit Singh Cheema, who was also close to Bindy Johal.
Cheema was at the wedding as well, despite being on strict bail conditions related to charges he faces in the U.S. He is awaiting a Supreme Court of Canada decision on his extradition.
But Brar was also a beloved son to his Surrey parents, a part-time student and a popular young man with so many friends that his funeral service was packed.
Cheema attended the funeral, as did Jean Mandoli, the young man linked to the Vietnamese gang who was killed in Richmond Oct. 11.
Brar’s parents declined an interview for this story because they were upset at the portrayal of their son as a gangster in newspaper articles at the time of his death.
But police and many Indo-Canadians interviewed said Brar was involved in gang activity, in addition to being well-liked and doting on his family.
Denial by families of any wrongdoing on the part of the young men caught up in the vicious cycle of gangs, drugs and violence is a big part of the problem, Surrey Guru Nanak Sikh temple president Balwant Singh Gill said.
As Indo-Canadian youth usually live at home until they get married, gang members in their 20s conduct their business on the streets, then return home every night.
“What bothers me is that we know our kids. Everyone knows their kids and they try to protect them and sometimes it is wrong,” Gill said. “I think the parents know what they are involved in, but don’t want to admit it.”
Gill said that community leaders need to hold meetings and forums like the ones being organized at the Ross Street temple to discuss the problems and search for solutions.
Sanghera said the effect of gang violence is not restricted to the Indo-Canadian community. The broader community is also affected.
But he said there are fewer resources and services for Indo-Canadians and there may be cultural reasons why the community is not seeking help.
“Either we don’t access the resources or we don’t have the knowledge to access them,” Sanghera said.
He also said there is a feeling that police can’t deal with the problems, especially after a number of high-profile crimes, including some acts of terrorism, within the Indo-Canadian community have remained unsolved for years.
“People feel that if police can’t solve high-profile cases like Air India or the murder of Tara Singh Hayer, how can they solve these more minute ones?” Sanghera said. “So they may be reluctant to give police information. They feel the laws protect the criminals and not the victims.”
But it becomes a catch-22 as frustrated law enforcement agencies say they have a difficult time getting information on crimes from within the Indo-Canadian community.
While the acts of political violence like the 1985 bombing of Air India and the slaying of Hayer, the moderate newspaper publisher, remain unprosecuted, so too do all the prominent gang murders of the 1990s, including that of Bindy Johal.
And that may make younger gangsters feel immune from prosecution.
No one has gone to jail for the murders of the Dosanjh brothers, after Johal and friends were acquitted in the 1995 jury trial that made Gillian Guess the world’s most famous juror for her affair with one of the accused. (The Crown is appealing three of those acquittals.)
No charges have been laid in the September, 1999 slayings of Vikash Naidu, 23, and Kuldeep Singh, 25, in Richmond; the May, 1999 shooting of 19-year-old Deepak Sodhi of Vancouver; the 1998 murders of Johal pals Roman “Danny” Mann and Derek Chand Shankar; the 1997 killing of Khun Khun, a sometime associate of Johal’s, or the 1995 murder of suspected drug dealer Paul Jabbal, 22. There are many others over the past decade in which no charges have been laid.
Naidu and Singh were shot at close range in their cars outside a Richmond 7-Eleven about 2:30 a.m. Sodhi was dumped on the dike in Delta. Mann’s bullet-ridden body was left beside the Westminster Highway in Richmond and Shankar’s was disposed of under the Queensborough bridge in New Westminster. Both Khun Khun and Jubbal were gunned down in south Vancouver.
The murder investigations are each being handled by police in the municipalities where the bodies were found.
Constable Anne Drennan of the Vancouver police department said several of the murder investigations in her jurisdiction are going well. “Bindy Johal and Mike Brar are still labelled as very active,” she said. “The Khun Khun one would probably be part of a larger investigation.”
The national body that monitors organized crime, Criminal Intelligence Service Canada, does not even mention Indo-Canadian gangs in its annual report for 2000.
It talks about East European and Asian crime groups. It talks about the Mafia and outlaw motorcycle gangs.
But high school students, Indo-Canadian families and community leaders are talking about the many young lives in B.C. that have been wasted by the street violence.
“It is very sad. The families who have lost someone are in turmoil and trauma,” Sanghera said. “But generally the other parents are also very worried.”
And there is reason to worry, because even those not involved in gang violence have become its victims.
The most notable one is Olson, Bindy Johal’s next-door neighbour, who was out walking his dog late at night when he was gunned down. His dark hair made him difficult to distinguish from Johal in the evening darkness. Police believe associates of the Dosanjh brothers did the hit.
Last June, 17-year-old Akhil Oberoi of Burnaby, was with a group of friends on the soccer field of south Vancouver’s Moberly elementary.
Several fights broke out over the course of a few hours and police were called to the school twice. But later in the evening, Oberoi, who police say had no gang connections, was stabbed to death.
Charged with the slaying is 19-year-old Ramandeep “Rummi” Gill, who has some association with gangs. His cousin Sanjeev Gill is the same man wounded in Bar None in a shooting this August. A preliminary hearing in the Oberoi killing began this week in Vancouver provincial court.
In another nightclub shooting, Peter Grewal was murdered outside Madison’s in downtown Vancouver in January, 1999. Grewal also had no gang connections, according to police.
But the man accused of the murder, Ranjit “Doc” Bahia, has gang links.
He is also the son of a prominent Vancouver Sikh separatist leader called Sucha Singh Bahia, who was once a top official locally in the International Sikh Youth Federation.
Doc Bahia is due to appear in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver on Nov. 2.
The violence associated with young Indo-Canadian gang members is not directly linked to political divisions between Sikh fundamentalists and moderates, or to the violence used by some Khalistanis — Sikh separatists — on Canadian soil over the past 15 years.
But occasionally there have been overlaps. Ron Dosanjh was a prominent Khalistani who led the Vancouver chapter of the International Sikh Youth Federation for years.
And Dosanjh is believed to have been behind the attempted assassination of moderate Sikh leader Bikar Singh Dhillon, who was shot several times outside his south Vancouver home in March, 1991.
The shooting occurred weeks after Dhillon had silenced a federation leader at the Ross Street temple and after moderates won a temple election over Dosanjh’s slate.
As well, a source said a federation leader approached Gorinder Khun Khun about killing Tara Hayer in 1997 after a bloody melee at the Guru Nanak temple which led to charges — and later acquittals — of several federation members.
But Khun Khun was gunned down that October before the plot could be executed. Hayer was eventually murdered in November, 1998.
The moderates, too, have had their supporters in gang circles. Bindy Johal turned up on a miserable cold day just three weeks before he was murdered to vote in the 1998 Ross Street temple election. As he waited in line, sleet pelting down, he gave the thumbs up to moderate candidates and said he would be supporting them.
In August, 1998, at the height of tensions between moderates and fundamentalists over the issue of tables and chairs in temple dining halls, Vancouver police closed the Ross Street temple, fearing violence.
That morning, as the two opposing groups gathered on opposite street corners, Ranjit Cheema arrived and went over to the moderate side. He offered his support and gestured toward the fundamentalists across the street.
Families of both Sikh political views have been affected by the gang violence.
Gurpreet Sohi’s grieving father Harinder is a prominent Vancouver fundamentalist leader. One of the accused killers, Hardeep Uppal, is the nephew of Ross Street moderate executive member Inderjit Kaur Uppal.
And one Surrey gang made up of youth whose parents are prominent fundamentalists is called Gianis (priests) Gone Bad, or GGBs for short.
But for the most part, gang rivalries have their roots in the conflicts between the young members over their own issues — drugs, territory, money and power.
SFU’s Gordon said the problem in recent months has not had the prominence of the Bindy Johal/Ron Dosanjh disputes of the `90s.
“The highly visible street profile of the mid-’80s and the mid-’90s has all but disappeared, which is good news in many respects,” he said.
Johal and other Indo-Canadians got involved in gangs that had been established by other ethnic groups in the `80s or earlier, primarily Los Diablos, a Latino gang affiliated with the Lotus, an Asian group.
Gordon said the gangs are less formally structured today with smaller groups of wannabes off doing their own thing. Most don’t even have names.
But police say there are people ready to move in and fill the leadership void, which could lead to even more gang violence.
Cheema is still in the picture and depending on what happens with his extradition case, could become even more dominant.
On Sept. 22, Kuljit “Kelly” Buttar and Baljit “Bal” Buttar, were found not guilty of extortion in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver. The two siblings, along with older brother Manjit “Manny” Buttar, were very close to Johal.
Gordon said the gangs are not going anywhere, especially when so much money can be made from marijuana, the easiest illegal substance to begin dealing in Greater Vancouver.
“Criminal business organizations are constant and have been with us for a long, long time and will continue to be with us as long as their goods are in demand,” Gordon said.
“The criminal business organizations and their affiliated criminal groups tend to cross the cultural and ethnic spectrum with regard to membership.”
But he said the difference with the young Indo-Canadians is that they are Canadian-born kids who attended Lower Mainland high schools and got their gang training right here.
“They don’t come here carrying baggage of organized crime from the Indian sub-continent,” he said.
And so far, regardless of the makeup of a gang, law-enforcement initiatives have not been successful, Gordon said — something he thinks many police officers would privately admit. “It is just too monstrous for police to handle.”
What is needed, he said, is more debate about the decriminalization of drugs to take away the lucrative profits and stop the violence.
“We have to rethink this kind of thing.”
RECENT GANG-RELATED INCIDENTS:
Oct. 16, 2000 — Gurwinder (Gogi) Mann, 23, of Surrey, is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Gurpreet Singh Sohi, 20, of Delta.
Oct. 13, 2000 — Ravinder (Robbie) Soomel, 21, of Vancouver, is arrested in California and charged with first-degree murder in Sohi case.
Sept. 18, 2000 — Hardeep Singh Uppal, 20, charged with murder of Gurpreet Singh Sohi, his former classmate at John Oliver Secondary, allegedly in a dispute over drug money.
Sept. 14, 2000 — Suspected drug dealer Gurpreet Singh Sohi, 20, shot to death in Delta.
Sept. 9, 2000 — Parmjit Singh Gill, 20, of Burnaby, and 26-year-old Raj Soomel, of Vancouver, are shot and wounded in an exchange of gunfire outside Soomel’s family home on East 59th.
Aug. 25, 2000 — Manmohan Singh Tiwana, 26, found shot in the head in his car in Surrey.
Aug. 4, 2000 — Sanjeev Gill is shot and wounded outside Bar None, in downtown Vancouver.
July 27, 2000 — Gurinder Singh Johal, 22, shot to death in Port Coquitlam. His brother, Bobby Johal, 24, is wounded. Bobby is a former associate of Gurinder Khun Khun, killed in 1997.
June 8, 2000 — Akhil Oberoi, 17, of Burnaby, who had no gang connections, stabbed to death in a Vancouver school yard. Ramandeep Gill, who has gang associations and is the cousin of Sanjeev Gill, is charged with manslaughter. His preliminary hearing began this week.
May 13, 2000 — Mike Brar, 21, acting as a bodyguard for alleged cocaine trafficker Ranjit Singh Cheema, shot to death in Vancouver.
Feb. 14, 2000 — Charred body of 21-year-old Rishi Singh, of Vancouver, is found dumped near Squamish. His burned car is later found in Surrey.
Some of the other major Lower Mainland shootings in the 1990s believed to be gang-linked:
Sept. 3, 1999 — Vikash Naidu, 23, of Vancouver, and Kuldeep Singh, 25, of Richmond, are fatally shot at close range in the parking lot of a 7-Eleven in Richmond. Singh was known to police but Naidu had no criminal record. The case is believed to be gang-related.
May 20, 1999 — Body of Deepak Sodhi, 19, of Vancouver, is found on the dike in Delta with gunshot wounds. No charges have been laid.
Dec. 20, 1998 — Bhupinder Singh (Bindy) Johal, 27, is shot dead at Vancouver’s Palladium nightclub. No charges have been laid.
Nov. 29, 1998 –Johal friend Roman (Danny) Mann, 22, is found murdered in New Westminster. No charges have been laid.
Oct. 7, 1998 — Drug dealer Vikash Chand, 26, shot dead outside Rags to Riches Motorcars in Burnaby. Johal is at the scene shortly after killing. Five men have been charged. Jury selection in their trial began this week in B.C. Supreme Court.
Sept. 19, 1998 — Johal friend Derek Chand Shankar, 19, is found shot to death under the Queensborough Bridge in New Westminster.
Oct. 21, 1997 — Johal associate Gorinder Singh Khun Khun, 24, is shot dead in Vancouver. No charges have been laid.
Oct. 11, 1995 — Suspected drug dealer Paul Jabbal, 22, dies after being found at Southeast Marine Drive and Elliott in Vancouver with gunshot wounds. No charges have been laid.
April 24, 1994 — Johal’s neighbour, Glen Olson, is out walking a dog when he is shot dead. Police suspect he was mistaken for Johal by associates of Ron Dosanjh.
April 19, 1994 — Drug dealer Ranjit Singh (Ron) Dosanjh, former head of the Vancouver branch of the International Sikh Youth Federation, is killed on Kingsway. Johal and associates are eventually charged, but acquitted. The Crown is appealing the acquittals of three of the accused.
Feb. 25, 1994 — Drug dealer Jimsher Singh (Jimmy) Dosanjh, Ron’s brother, is shot dead. Johal and associates are eventually charged and acquitted. The Crown is appealing.
Oct. 11, 1991 — Parminder Chana is murdered apparently because he was dating sister of Rajinder (Little) Benji, who is charged and acquitted of the murder. Faizal Dean, a Johal associate, is convicted of second-degree murder.
Dec. 2, 1991 — Sanjay Narain, who witnessed Chana murder, thrown off Cleveland Dam, allegedly killed for “yapping” too much about Chana killing.
March 1991 — Sikh moderate leader Bikar Singh Dhillon is shot and wounded outside his home.
- compiled by Kim Bolan
This article is the prequel to this following article.