Police are asking witnesses to come forward in the “targeted” daytime shooting of an alleged Vancouver gangster in midtown Toronto, releasing limited information on the suspects, the victim’s criminal past and admitting their investigation is operating within a “vacuum.”
Thirty-five-year-old Sukhvir Singh Deo, known to family and friends as “Sukh,” was gunned down at close range while sitting in a white Range Rover on Cowbell Lane, near the heavily populated Yonge Street and Eglinton Avenue neighbourhood, just before 3 p.m. Tuesday.
Two suspects were seen fleeing the area but police have not provided descriptions of them other than that they were wearing construction vests and fled in a 2001 to 2003 black Honda Civic.
“This was absolutely a targeted shooting,” Homicide Det.-Sgt. Joyce Schertzer told reporters at a news conference Thursday.
“I can tell you that he wasn’t a member of this community, it wasn’t a random shooting, it was targeted.”
Several members of the Deo family, including Sukh, were well-known to police in Metro Vancouver. His brother Harjit Singh Deo was convicted in 2007 for a 2005 kidnapping for ransom in which the victim was held inside the Deo family home in New Westminster.
Sukh Deo made headlines in May when he was escorted out of his courtside seat at a Toronto Raptors playoff game for heckling referees.
A police source told Global News that Deo moved to Ontario in 2013 was known to investigators in Vancouver’s Lower Mainland as being affiliated with the Independent Soldiers gang and was suspected of being involved in cocaine trafficking.
Staff Sgt. Lindsey Houghton, with the B.C. Combined Forces Special Enforcement, told Global News Deo was aligned with several people in leadership positions of the notorious B.C. gang, which extends into the “shell company” criminal organization known as the Wolf Pack.
“People who would self identify as being a part of the Wolf Pack even though they may belong to other gangs such as the Hells Angels, do have a presence in Ontario, they have a presence almost entirely across Canada,” Houghton said.
“If history tells us anything, especially here in British Columbia, when we have individuals — no matter where they are placed on the gang hierarchy if you will — any time one of them is a victim of violence, whether its murder or attempt on their life, in the past 10 years we’ve seen tit for tat reprisals.”
Houghton said that police in B.C. regularly work closely with other police jurisdictions across the country in targeting violent gangs like the Independent Soldiers and Wolf Pack, adding that they had been “very actively communicating with them on sharing intelligence.”
“I can tell you that he was known to police. All I can say is he had no prior contact with the Toronto Police Service, but that he was known to the police,” Schertzer said in response to questions about Deo’s gang affiliations.
“At this time and point in the investigation this is all that I’m prepared to release to the public and I understand that we’re operating in somewhat of a vacuum but I would really like and appreciate information on this vehicle.”
Schertzer said Deo was visiting friends or “socializing” at the time of the shooting and he was pronounced dead at the scene by paramedics.
Deo’s father, Parminder Singh Deo, is also wanted in an Interpol warrant from India with charges including narcotic drug smuggling, forgery, thefts, and criminal conspiracy.
A statement from the family said that they were going through a “difficult time” and that they were “shattered” by his death.
“There have been many things written and said about Sukh alleging all manner of things that are not true,” the statement read.
“To his family, he was a loving son, a loving brother and a loving husband and father of two very young children.”
Schertzer echoed the previous statement of 53 Division Unit Commander Supt. Reuben Stroble, who called the shooting in the “quiet” midtown neighbourhood “shocking.”
“We’ve had great cooperation from the public so far and we’re hoping through your help that cooperation can continue,” Stroble said Thursday.
“This individual was not known to the Toronto Police Service, we have no investigations, no history with him, he is new to us. So, again, any information that we’ve received, I mean you’ve mentioned Vancouver, this is the same type of information that we’re now starting to gather that’s again all new to us.”
An image of the Honda Civic the suspects escaped the area in was released and Schertzer said the car was identifiable because it had “distinctive rims” that were once popular among car owners but are no longer common.
“We have downloaded hours and hours of video and accessed a number of different CCTV cameras in the area depicting different angles. We’re still analyzing that video,” she said.
“For the time being, I wanted to release this while it’s still maybe fresh in the minds of some potential witnesses if they saw this vehicle or know of a vehicle. … if I had a plate number I’d probably be releasing it.”
Schertzer said witnesses can upload video and images they had recorded at the scene of the shooting to investigators directly via Toronto police’s website, in addition to contacting 53 Division, homicide detectives or Crime Stoppers anonymously.