Canadian police have arrested two persons and charged them with first-degree murder in the targeted shooting of Ripudaman Singh Malik, the Sikh man acquitted in the tragic 1985 Air India Kanishka terrorist bombing case that killed 331 people.
On July 15, Malik was shot dead in Surrey, British Columbia. Malik and co-accused Ajaib Singh Bagri were acquitted in 2005 of mass murder and conspiracy charges related to the two bombings in 1985.
The 1985 Air India bombing is among the worst terrorist attacks in Canadian history and in the history of the airline.
Tanner Fox, a 21-year-old from Abbotsford, British Columbia, a city about 75 kilometres east of Vancouver and 23-year-old Jose Lopez, from the Vancouver suburb of New Westminster, were both arrested on Tuesday, said the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) at a news conference in Surrey on Wednesday.
Police were tight-lipped, only saying the two were arrested peacefully in their respective cities and that collaboration between police helped lead to the arrests, the Toronto Star newspaper reported.
“Through conventional investigative techniques and amazing police work we were able to identify and arrest two suspects in relation to this homicide. “Both of these individuals are known to police,” said superintendent Mandeep Mooker, a spokesperson for the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team (IHIT).
A few kilometres away, Malik’s son, Jaspreet Singh Malik, said his family took the news with mixed emotions.
“No matter where the investigation goes and no matter how these charges turn out, we have lost a great man,” said Jaspreet.
“We are glad the IHIT team has made progress and we support the work they’re doing. At the same time, we are saddened that these two young men made such poor life choices. We trust the justice system to deal with them properly and fairly,” he said.
Jaspreet said police have not told the family any more than it has divulged publicly, and did not want to speculate on why his father was targeted.
The Integrated Homicide Investigation Team says the probe into the slaying of controversial Surrey businessman Malik continues despite first-degree murder charges being laid Wednesday, the Vancouver Sun newspaper reported.
Fox, who grew up in Abbotsford, and Lopez, of New Westminster, both appeared in Surrey provincial court on Wednesday and have been remanded in custody until their next court date on August 10.
Lopez was charged in Kelowna last summer with nine criminal counts, including possession of a firearm with ammunition, pointing a gun, violating a court order to possess firearms and resisting arrest.
Fox was convicted this past April of resisting or obstructing a peace officer and sentenced to four days in jail. Last fall, he was charged with aggravated assault related to a New Westminster incident. He was released on bail.
He was earlier convicted of assault causing bodily harm related to a November 2019 stabbing in Abbotsford and sentenced to 119 days in jail, as well as a 10-year firearms prohibition.
Surrey RCMP commander Brian Edwards thanked city residents for their assistance in the high-profile case.
“Thank you for your trust, your patience and your assistance in solving this matter … the involvement of the public at all stages of investigations is how we solve crime,” Edwards said.
Malik was shot while sitting in his car at a Surrey business complex, of which he was the strata president, on July 14. A suspect vehicle was found on fire nearby, according to RCMP, who at the time said the shooting appeared targeted.
On July 16, Canada’s top homicide unit released footage showing a white car that it says was linked to the targeted killing of Malik and urged the public not to jump to conclusions over the motive as it investigates the complex high-profile case.
The killing prompted mixed reactions from the community, with many mourning Malik as the co-founder of the Khalsa School and Khalsa Credit Union. At the shooting scene, some who knew him were visibly shaken as officers swarmed the complex.
Others who continue to suspect Malik was involved in the Air India attack had more complicated feelings as they continue to seek accountability for the bombing.
On June 23, 1985, Air India flight 182, carrying 329 people, including 268 Canadian citizens and 24 Indian citizens, flew from Toronto and stopped in Montreal from where it was en route to London and then onwards to its final destination Bombay.
The plane was flying 31,000 feet above the Atlantic Ocean when a suitcase bomb exploded in the front cargo, killing all on board.
Another bomb was meant to be planted in an Air India flight scheduled to take off from Japan but it exploded at Tokyo’s Narita airport killing two baggage handlers.