The 74-year-old man killed by a stray bullet in his Abbotsford yard Wednesday has been identified by media as Ping Shun Ao, a beloved grandfather with no connection to the violent neighbourhood feud that took his life.
According to Ao’s granddaughter Jennifer Leong, the man had been planning a trip to China just next month.
“I miss you Grandpa and I love you so much,” wrote Leong in a Facebook post. “I can’t believe any of this. You were like my dad, you raised me since I was a baby and you were loved by everyone around you. We were supposed to go back to China this October together. I’ll be missing you each and every minute of everyday (sic). I love you Grandpa, you were the best grandpa anyone could’ve ever had.”
This shooting was the latest in a string of violent incidents which police are calling the Townline Hill conflict, a feud between two rival groups of young men in a West Abbotsford neighbourhood. Abbotsford police say they have “definitively” determined this was an attempted targeted shooting aimed at residents of the house next door, who had no connection to the inadvertent victim.
Residents of his street described Ao as a quiet, polite man, a good neighbour and someone devoted to raising his grandchildren.
Abbotsford police first learned of the situation when they received a 911 call at 7:17 p.m. reporting shots fired in the 3500 block of Promontory Court, a suburban cul-de-sac next to Maclure Park.
Const. Ian MacDonald said Abbotsford Police officers first found a gunfire-damaged car parked in a driveway. They then searched next door, and discovered a man who had suffered a “very significant” gunshot wound.
The man was pronounced dead at the scene. The owner of the gunfire-damaged vehicle, and the house it was parked outside of, are both known to police – leading them to assert the shooting was targeted. The investigation has since been taken over by the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team (IHIT).
“It was an absolute horrible tragedy, and a worst-case scenario in many ways,” said MacDonald. “This 74-year-old man was an innocent victim who happened to be at the fence line. He probably was not even visible from the roadway.”
MacDonald says the investigations into this and other Townline Hill incidents have been hindered by a lack of participation from area residents.
“We haven’t received a ton of cooperation from the people who are directly involved. Many times we arrive at the scene and we are basically stonewalled, and I think this has to be a wake-up call to everybody in the community that they need to assist police and we have to restore public safety,” he said.
Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun urged local residents to bring any relevant information forward to police.
“People know who these people are,” said Braun. “We need their help to let us know who they are….You can’t keep this kind of stuff quiet. Somebody knows who this is.
“No parent wants to hear their son or daughter is doing something they ought not to be doing, but when you don’t deal with it this is what can happen.”
IHIT continued to investigate the area of the shooting the next morning, and an ambulance remained parked behind police lines because moving it would have disturbed the scene.
In recent months, police placed video cameras in the neighbourhood, although it is not yet known whether they will assist in this investigation.
The home where this shooting took place is in an area of west Abbotsford where numerous incidents of violence, including previous drive-by shootings and physical confrontations have taken place over the past year.
Police say the Townline Hill conflict involves two groups of young South Asian men and has resulted in mischief, assault, vandalism and arson.
In recent months, the dispute has escalated to include several shootings.
The last violent incident in the area occurred on the night of Aug. 17, when a 23-year-old man suffered a gunshot wound to his leg in the 30700 block of Sandpiper Drive.
A prior drive-by shooting, also believed to be part of the dispute, took place in the 30500 block of Sandpiper Drive on Aug. 6. In that incident, a 2013 Volkswagen in the driveway of a residence had been struck with several bullets, but no one was injured.
At the time, police said there are people in the home who are well-known to police, but none of them were co-operating with police.
Last October, 18-year-old Harwin Baringh was fatally shot while in his vehicle on Sparrow Drive – located in the vicinity of the last two shootings – but police have not confirmed whether his murder is related to the conflict.
However, court documents filed in December to seize two vehicles alleged to have ties to Baringh’s murder indicated that his death was linked to an ongoing conflict between members of the Chahil and Dhaliwal crime groups.
MacDonald said the Townline Hill conflict initially began between the two groups “over next to nothing,” but many young men became easy targets for gang recruitment.
He said the recent shootings represent a “hodgepodge of different reasons for men to be in conflict with one another, starting with the petty and going up to gangs and drugs.”
The conflict was the subject of a crime forum for the South Asian community in April at Matsqui Centennial Auditorium that attracted more than 500 people, with many being turned away at the door.
Anyone with information about the shooting has been asked to call the IHIT tip line at 1-877-551-4448.
Feb. 22 : One man is shot and another stabbed during an altercation on Holly Street.
March 2: Shots fired at a home, associated to a known gang member, in the 31400 block of Southern Drive. Nobody injured.
April 16: Shots fired from one car at another in the area of Clearbrook and Downes roads near MEI school. Nobody injured.
July 18: Five shots fired at a home in the 31400 block of Blueridge Drive. Nobody injured.
– with files by Vikki Hopes