Two burned-out cars were found the same night as the killings that police said may be linked. They're still looking for witnesses.
The young ages of the teenagers led to some significant changes in the city, says Gurpreet Singh Sahota.
Families of slain teens plead for information a year after their deaths
Following the teenagers' murder, Sahota and a few others founded Wake Up Surrey and organized a protest outside Surrey City Hall, which was attended by thousands who spoke out against gang violence, including grieving family members of the two teens.
"They were teenagers and not their time to go. Everyone is worried if this thing can happen to a 16 and 17-year-old, it can happen to 15, 14 or 13. Have to stop it here," he said.
After a year of investigation, the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team said it still has not secured any charges or made any arrests in the case, but they have now revealed they believe the murders are linked to gangs.
Sahota also believes the teenagers' murder changed the course of the municipal election in Surrey and led the city to transition to a local police force instead of the RCMP.
"People were thinking the previous council was not sincere and not doing enough. People need change. That's why they're asking for even police change," he said.
On Monday, the City of Surrey announced its plans to transition to an independent police force by April 21, 2021.
The report says a municipal force would cost $192.5 million in 2021 — a 10.9 per cent increase over the projected costs of keeping the RCMP — and would have 805 police officers and 20 community safety personnel.
Currently, Surrey RCMP has an authorized strength of 843 police officers with 51 vacancies that have been backfilled.
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The families of two murdered Surrey teens have made an emotional appeal for information about the boys’ deaths.
Tuesday marks the one-year anniversary of the deaths of 17-year-old Jaskaran Jesse Bhangal and 16-year-old Jaskarn Jason Jhutty, who were found fatally shot in the rural 18700 block of 40th Avenue.
A burning vehicle was found in the area of 14 Street and 29A Avenue shortly afterwards, and a second burning vehicle was found that night in the area of 177 Street and 93 Avenue.
The pair was last seen alive playing basketball with a group at Georges Vanier Elementary in Surrey, and on Tuesday, Jesse’s sister pleaded with anyone who knows what happened afterwards to speak with investigators.
“We don’t know why this happened, who did it and what motive they had behind it — which are all questions that still go unanswered today. No family should have to experience this kind of heartache,” she said.
“I didn’t just lose my baby brother, I lost a piece of myself I can never get back. I lost my only sibling, and my parents lost their only son.”
Pawan Jhutti, Jason’s older sister, said the family is still trying to understand how the teen became the victim of a brutal murder.
“He was just a child. No parent should ever have to spend their life wondering what could have possibly happened in their child’s final moments,” she said.
“Although my brother and I were two years apart, both of our birthdays were in January. For the past 17 years, we had celebrated our birthdays together. This time around, he was not here to celebrate it. My birthday will never be the same,” Sharon said.
“Someone out there knows what happened to Jason. They know why he didn’t come home.”
Police believe the boys’ deaths were targeted and linked in some way to the region’s gang conflict but reiterated that neither teen had a criminal record nor any known interactions with police.
That fact has made the mystery of the teens’ deaths even more difficult for the families to bear, Jhutti added.
“Gang violence has been a topic in our home since my brothers were in high school. Education against drugs and gangs were my parents’ number 1 concern and priority,” she said.
“Jason had no criminal record or even interactions with police. It seemed as if we were doing everything right as parents and older siblings.”
READ MORE: I cant live without my baby — mom grieves Surrey teen killed in targeted shooting
“He was a gentle soul — I always thought he was ahead of his time,” she added. “Everyone always had something to learn from him.
Cpl. Frank Jang with the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team (IHIT) said that police have continued to face roadblocks when dealing with people who may have information about the case.
He said police are pleading with people who they know have “intimate knowledge” of the boys’ final hours to share that information with investigators.
“It only takes one or two phone calls from the right person with the right information to further a homicide investigation. We urge anyone with information … to please come forward and help us solve the murder of two teenage boys,” Jang said.
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