In the last moments of her life, Thuy Yen Vu was sitting in the driver's seat of her BMW SUV on the street in front of her family’s home in a quiet neighbourhood of southeast Vancouver.
Frank Brick, her neighbour, looked out the front window of his home and saw the 38-year-old mother of four children, aged three to 17. And then he turned away to deal with some laundry in his basement. While there, he heard three loud bangs that he dismissed as kids setting off firecrackers.
But out on the street, Ms. Vu had been shot dead. Her three-year-old son sat in the back seat, uninjured.
“I feel sorry for the kid,” Mr. Brick said Thursday, less than 24 hours after the shooting that has stunned police and the neighbourhood. “I don’t shock easy, but I feel bad for the kids. They’ve got no mom now.”
In the Lower Mainland where targeted shootings – generally linked to gangs – are sadly routine, this one is standing out because of the young witness.
Constable Lindsey Houghton, a spokesman for the Vancouver Police Department, said Ms. Vu’s children are “understandably, completely beside themselves with grief” as they come to terms with losing their mother “in such a heinous and brazen way.”
But the horror is especially acute for her youngest child. “This is undoubtedly an extremely emotional time for that young boy,” he said.
By Thursday, Vancouver police were well into an intense investigation to try and figure out why Ms. Vu was the victim of the city’s latest targeted shooting, and the 14th Vancouver homicide of 2011.
While it’s early, police are saying there was nothing random about the attack. Someone targeted Ms. Vu for reasons police are now trying to figure out.
Constable Houghton said Ms. Vu was not known to police.
However, he was more guarded about her husband. “We are not releasing or confirming her husband’s history,” he said, adding Ms. Vu’s husband is co-operating with police and is not now a suspect in the case.
Property records list Ms. Vu as a hairstylist and Stephen Michaelson, a businessman, as joint tenants of the home.
Constable Houghton said he does not know if Ms. Vu’s husband was home at the time of the shooting. Nor, he said, is it clear whether Ms. Vu was arriving or leaving when she was shot at about 3 p.m.
“The only thing I will say is that we are looking into all of Ms. Vu’s possible connections – whether family, friends or other associates,” he said. “In any investigation, especially ones that are complex like homicides, we don’t know where the investigation will lead.”
He said there is no indication now that the case is related to gangs. “However, that could change depending on what information is uncovered by investigators,” he said.
Police have said it’s too soon to connect the Vu shooting to a shooting in a downtown Tim Hortons on Tuesday night at about 7:30 p.m. that left an unidentified man in his 30s wounded. The man was known to police.
Mr. Brick, a resident of Bruce Street for 44 years, said he didn’t know Ms. Vu personally, and that the family kept to themselves.
Over the years, he said the neighbourhood has become less of a community. “We’ve got no neighbours here,” he said. “So don’t use the word ‘neighbour,’ this is just a ‘hood’.”
He said people do not much talk to each other on the street. “They all hibernate when they come home from work and don’t come out again. There’s no street hockey even any more.”
By Thursday morning the only reminder of the previous afternoon’s shooting was a scattering of glass shards on the roadside. Six officers were canvassing the neighbourhood.
Tarlochen Heer, another Bruce Street resident, said the shooting was of great concern.
“My two-year-old plays in the park just down the street.”
But Mr. Brick had another view. “My wife isn’t scared because this is not a case of a mad dog on the street. Somebody doesn’t just come and shoot somebody just for the hell of it.”