VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) — Police tried to learn why a man gunned down four people in a Vancouver suburb as Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday he is broken-hearted over the shootings that left the community shaken.
Two people were killed and two were wounded — one critically — over the span of more than five hours early Monday in Langley and in an adjacent township before police shot dead the alleged gunman, Jordan Daniel Goggin, 28.
Authorities initially had said it appeared the attacker was targeting homeless people but later said they weren't sure of that. One man was shot to death at a residential complex that provides support for people transitioning out of homelessness. Shootings also occurred at other sites in the predawn rampage, including near a casino, at a bus stop and alongside a highway.
Victim services teams planned to host a community outreach event Tuesday afternoon at an elementary school in response to the shootings, the Langley office of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said. Crisis counselors and a variety of community support groups would offer their services, the RCMP said on Facebook.
Trudeau said on Twitter that “this violence has no place in any of our communities.”
“I’m horrified by the news that came out of Langley, BC yesterday,” the prime minister wrote on Twitter. “My heart breaks for the victims’ loved ones and communities, and my thoughts are with the people who were injured – we’re wishing you a speedy recovery.”
If investigators learn that Goggin was targeting the homeless, that would mean he went after society’s most vulnerable.
Dr. Julian M Somers, a professor at the Faculty of Health Sciences at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, said the homeless are targeted by those — including drug dealers and pimps — who would exploit their vulnerability.
“They’re exposed physically and mentally, often weakened by the conditions that they have to live in. Easy targets,” Somers said. “If anything, the number of people who are vulnerable has clearly increased.”
Reports by the British Columbia government said 7,666 people in the western Canadian province were chronically homeless in 2018, a number that increased to 8,665 in the most recent published annual count, completed in the spring of 2021.
Rachael Allen, a spokesperson for Union Gospel Mission in Vancouver, said violence against homeless people appears to be escalating. She cited recent examples: a person hit in the head with rocks while asleep, a pepper-spray attack and a woman who was set on fire while she was sleeping.
``It just underlines for us that every single person deserves dignity and respect and care, regardless of how they might look or where they lay their head at night and what battles they’re facing,″ Allen said.
Residents of Langley, a town of 29,000 people about 30 miles (48 kilometers) southeast of Vancouver, were rattled when they received a police alert on their cellphones at 6:20 a.m. Monday reporting “multiple shooting scenes.”
Police swarmed the area and blocked off a major intersection. The windshield of an unmarked police SUV was stitched by more than a half-dozen bullets, with another bullet having punched a hole through the driver's window.
Police Sgt. David Lee, a spokesman for homicide investigators, said police know what kind of weapon Goggin used but are not releasing that information yet. How Goggin obtained the gun was also not disclosed.
The RCMP in Langley said Goggin was from the nearby town of Surrey and “was known to police but had non-criminal contact.”
Mass shootings are less common in Canada than in the United States. It is illegal to possess an unregistered handgun or any kind of rapid-fire weapon in Canada.
To purchase a weapon, the country also requires training, a personal risk assessment, two references, spousal notification and criminal record checks.