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Investigators arrive at the scene of the fatal shooting in Surrey, B.C., on July 14.DARRYL DYCK/The Canadian Press

Two men have been charged with first-degree murder in the death of Ripudaman Singh Malik, but the businessman’s family says it is no closer to knowing why he was killed.

Mr. Malik, who was acquitted in the 1985 Air India terrorist bombings, was fatally shot on July 14 at about 9:30 a.m. as he sat in his vehicle near his Surrey business. He was 75 years old.

Tanner Fox, 21, and Jose Lopez, 23, were arrested on Tuesday in Abbotsford and New Westminster, respectively, said Superintendent Mandeep Mooker, officer in charge of the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team (IHIT). Both were charged on Wednesday. The IHIT is a group of officers from 28 RCMP communities and four municipal forces that investigates homicides in B.C.’s Lower Mainland.

“Obviously, we’re in the infancy of this investigation, as it’s only 13 days old, so there are many follow-up tasks,” Supt. Mooker said at a news conference.

Ripudaman Singh Malik, acquitted in 1985 Air India bombings, shot dead in Surrey, B.C.

Vehicle waited for Ripudaman Singh Malik hours before shooting in B.C., police say

He said the young men were known to police, but would not say how, and that he could not go into details about what led police to them, citing the investigation.

Court records indicate both have criminal records. Mr. Lopez is facing trial on a range of firearms charges that were laid in Kelowna last year; he was out on bail in that case. He was convicted of assault with a weapon and assault causing bodily harm in 2019.

Mr. Fox has previous convictions for robbery and assault. He was also convicted earlier this year of resisting a peace officer, and released on bail last year on an aggravated assault charge from 2020.

Jaspreet Singh Malik, Mr. Malik’s son, who is a lawyer, said his family is pleased that progress is being made in the case, but feels mixed emotions.

“It strikes us as profoundly sad that our father, who dedicated his life to bettering young people and steering them to the path of being productive members of Canadian society, was taken by two young people who clearly strayed so far from that path,” he said.

Mr. Malik was among three people charged in the June 23, 1985, bombing, which killed 329 people, including 280 Canadian citizens and permanent residents, when an airliner that originated in Vancouver exploded off the coast of Ireland. Two baggage handlers at the Tokyo airport were killed in another explosion the same day. Mr. Malik was acquitted of first degree murder in 2005.

The terrorist attack, Canada’s worst mass murder, exposed flaws in the country’s security systems and drew attention to Sikh extremism in this country. A public inquiry issued a report in 2010 that blamed a “cascading series of errors” by police, intelligence officers and air safety regulators and prompted then-prime minister Stephen Harper to apologize to the victims’ families.

Jaspreet Singh Malik said he does not believe his father’s killing was related to the Air India case.

He declined to speculate on what might be the reason.

“I trust in the police to do their job,” he said. “Hopefully we’ll get those answers. It doesn’t help our family to speculate, it doesn’t help our family to guess. No amount of anything is going to bring my father back.”

Police said earlier this month that people driving a white Honda CRV appeared to have been waiting for Mr. Malik for hours before he was gunned down. That same vehicle was later located burned out, not far from the shooting scene.

Robert Gordon, a criminologist at Simon Fraser University, said the killing and the destruction of evidence were characteristic of groups involved in the drug trade.

“I saw that and thought, oh, this could be a mix-and-match situation where you’ve got a bunch of people who are willing to do the deed, people who are also involved in the illegal drug trade,” he said. “Alternatively, [Mr. Malik] could have strayed into that world, which I don’t think is a terribly strong argument.”

Jaspreet Singh Malik said his family is awaiting answers.

“The question being asked is: Well, why?” he said. “Who hired these people? Were they hired by somebody? Were they acting alone? We’re waiting for those answers just like everybody else is.”

With a report from James Keller

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