Police charge two in shooting death of man acquitted in 1985 Air India bombing

SURREY, BC—Two young men have been arrested and charged with first-degree murder in the July 14 shooting of Ripudaman Singh Malik, who was acquitted in the trial of Canada’s most infamous terrorist bombing — the downing of Air India Flight 182.

Tanner Fox, a 21-year-old from Abbotsford, BC, a city about 75 kilometers east of Vancouver and 23-year-old Jose Lopez, from the Vancouver suburb of New Westminster, were both arrested Tuesday, said RCMP at a news conference in Surrey 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.

“Through conventional investigative techniques and amazing police work we were able to identify and arrest two suspects in relation to this homicide,” said Supt. Mandeep Mooker, a spokesperson for the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team. “Both of these individuals are known to police.”

Mooker would not reveal much more about the investigation, which is ongoing.

Two men have been charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death. Malik was acquitted in 2005 for bombings aimed at Air India jets. The bombings killed more than 300 people.

A few kilometers away, Malik’s son, Jaspre and Singh Malik, said his family took the news with mixed emotions.

“We are glad the IHIT team has made progress and we support the work they’re doing,” Jaspreet said, “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.”

Jaspreet said police have not told the family any more than it has divulged publicly, and didn’t want to speculate on why his father was targeted.

The 75-year-old was shot while sitting in his car at a Surrey business complex, of which he was the strata president, around 9:30 am on July 14. A suspect vehicle was found on fire nearby, according to RCMP, who at the time said the shooting appeared targeted.

Jaspreet Singh Malik said his family took the news with mixed emotions, and that they “trust the justice system to deal with them properly and fairly.”

One witness told The Canadian Press the day of the shooting he heard three shots, one of which hit Malik in the neck.

In 2005 Malik and another man, Ajaib Singh Bagri, were acquitted of mass murder and conspiracy charges after 329 people were killed in a pair of June 23, 1985, bombings. One bomb killed 329 passengers, 280 of them Canadians, on an Air India jet that exploded off the coast of Ireland.

Two baggage handlers at the airport in Tokyo were also killed by another bomb. The explosives on Air India flight 182 were loaded onto a plane in Vancouver, then transferred onto the jet in Toronto, BC Supreme Court heard during the trial. The incident is the largest terrorist attack in Canadian history.

The only man convicted in the attack, Inderjit Singh Reyat, tested for the Crown during the trial of Malik and Bagri. He was later convicted of perjury.

Malik had recently been in the spotlight again after writing a letter published in the Hindustan times praising Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s treatment of the country’s Sikh population.

Malik thanked Modi for “unprecedented positive steps” in the letter, such as the “elimination” of blacklists restricting thousands of Sikhs abroad from living in India.

His praise of Modi could have angered extremists in the Sikh community, former BC premier Ujjal Dosanjh told the Star the day Malik was shot, adding there was no way to know at the time what motivated the shooting.

Dosanjh said he first met Malik in the ’70s, but had not seen him in many years and said he was not a friend. He said he hoped the shooting did not spark any retaliation.

With files from The Canadian Press

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