Ripudaman Singh Malik, one of two men acquitted in the 1985 Air India terrorist bombings, has been shot to death in Surrey, B.C.
A witness told CBC he heard three shots and pulled Malik from his red Tesla bleeding from a neck wound.
The witness, who asked not to be named, said police were first to arrive at the scene.
A second witness from a nearby business in the 8200-block of 128 Street also identified Malik as the victim.
Surrey RCMP said a man shot at that location at around 9:30 a.m. PT succumbed to his injuries at the scene. They say it appears to be a targeted shooting and are not releasing the victim’s name.
A suspect vehicle was located in the 12200-block of 82 Avenue engulfed in fire, according to police.
Malik, who was in his mid-70s, owned a business near where he was killed.
Malik and co-accused Ajaib Singh Bagri were acquitted in 2005 of mass murder and conspiracy charges related to a pair of bombings in 1985 that killed 331 people, mostly from the Toronto and Vancouver areas.
Of those who died, 329 were aboard Air India Flight 182 when it exploded in mid-air over the Atlantic Ocean on June 23, 1985. Another bomb destined for a separate flight exploded at a Tokyo airport, killing two baggage handlers.
The killings amounted to the worst mass murder in Canadian history. Among the dead were 280 Canadians and 86 children.
RCMP ask for public’s help
On Thursday evening, the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team (IHIT) issued a statement asking the public for help with the investigation into Malik’s death.
IHIT says it’s taken over the file and is working closely with Surrey RCMP and the B.C. Coroner’s Service. Since the shooting took place in a residential area, it says it is “confident” there were witnesses and is urging them to come forward.
Anyone who was travelling in the 8200 block of 128 Street or the area of 122 Street and 82 Avenue in Surrey between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. on Thursday, especially those with dashcam footage, is asked to contact email@example.com or call 1-877-551-4448.
IHIT says it will provide an update on the investigation at 10 a.m on Friday at the Surrey RCMP Detachment.
Reaction to Malik’s death has been mixed.
“We lost a hero of the Sikh community” said longtime friend Ragibtir Bhinder speaking at the scene of the shooting. “We’d like this man to live a hundred years. It’s hurting us.”
Former British Columbia premier Ujjal Dosanjh, a former acquaintance of Malik’s, said he was a controversial figure.
“One of the other complicating factors is he made a recent visit to India where he wrote a letter in support of [Prime Minister] Modi and his policies and I think that may have reverberated and had implications within the community,” said Dosanjh.
Malik, a successful businessman with significant influence among Canadian Sikhs, sued after his acquittal in an effort to get back $9.2 million in legal fees. He claimed the Crown knew the case fell short of standards, but pursued the case regardless because of pressure from the public.
A B.C. Supreme Court judge rejected Malik’s financial claim in July 2012.
In recent years, Malik served as chairman with Khalsa School and managed two of the private schools’ campuses in Surrey and Vancouver. He was also president of the Vancouver-based Khalsa Credit Union (KCU), which has more than 16,000 members.
Only one man was convicted in relation to the 1985 bombings. Inderjit Singh Reyat served 30 years for lying during two trials, including Malik’s, and for helping to make the bombs at his home in Duncan, B.C.
Crown lawyers alleged the bombing was a terrorist attack against state-owned Air India, an act of revenge by B.C.-based Sikh extremists against the Indian government for ordering the army to raid Sikhism’s holiest shrine, the Golden Temple in Amritsar, in June 1984.
Malik, then 58, and Bagri, then 55, were acquitted after a highly publicized trial that stretched on for two years.
In the end, Justice Ian Josephson found the Crown’s key witnesses, who testified that they heard the two defendants confess, were biased and unreliable.
“These hundreds of men, women and children were entirely innocent victims of a diabolical act of terrorism unparalleled until recently in aviation history,” reads the March 16, 2005 ruling. “Justice is not achieved, however, if persons are convicted on anything less than the requisite standard of proof beyond a reasonable doubt.”
The national Air India inquiry later concluded Talwinder Singh Parmar was the mastermind behind the deadly mid-air bombing. Parmar, 48, was shot and killed by police in India in 1992.
Another suspect, Hardial Singh Johal, died in November 2002.