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Racial targeting, profiling raised as concerns in White Rock stabbings

With two South Asian victims and a Black suspect, community members fear for safety of loved ones
Sgt. Timothy Pierotti of IHIT speaks to reporters on Friday, April 26 near the area where Kulwinder Singh Sohi was attacked and died of stab wounds on Tuesday, April 23. (Sobia Moman photo)

Members of White Rock’s BIPOC communities are raising concern for the safety of their loved ones after two recent stabbings — though homicide investigators say they can’t yet say if race is a factor.

Sgt. Timothy Pierotti of IHIT addressed media at a press conference Friday afternoon at Grand Chief Bernard Robert Charles Memorial Plaza, where the victim of the second stabbing, Kulwinder Singh Sohi, 26, died of his injuries on Tuesday (April 23) night.

ALSO READ: Man dead after 2 people stabbed in 2 days in White Rock; suspect at large

The first stabbing occurred two days prior at a similar time, on Sunday around 9 p.m., with victim Jatinder Singh now recovering at home.

Both victims were South Asian men, which has raised concern among some in the community.

One White Rock father, who is South Asian, says he is not allowing his 15-year-old son to visit the beach or pier until a suspect is arrested.

“He doesn’t look 15; he looks like an adult, so who knows, he could be targeted,” the father, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of his and his family’s safety, told Peace Arch News on Friday afternoon.

ALSO READ: Racial targeting ‘not ruled out’ in White Rock stabbings

When first responders were providing life-saving care to Sohi, the father said his family saw the man be declared dead on scene.

“I don’t know if there’s any credibility in the theory of targeting South Asian males, but given that I’m one and my son is one, who is regularly with his friends down here, I really appreciate the fact that this is being taken seriously” by police, he said.

While investigators are not making a connection between the two incidents for a motive or the same suspect, the father says it’s difficult to not feel as though there is a certain demographic being targeted.

“It’s not guaranteed, but the potential that they’re linked is pretty scary,” he said, adding that his son is not allowed on the waterfront until a suspect is arrested.

“The risk is absolutely not worth it at all.”

Pierotti said that there is no evidence at this point to say the crimes have been racially-targeted, but added that the motive has not been ruled out.

IHIT not ‘jumping to conclusions’ based on race

The description of the suspect provided by police for both stabbings identifies them as a Black male who was wearing a grey hoodie and dark-coloured ball cap. For the fatal stabbing, IHIT said the suspect was five-foot-eleven in height.

Given the “vague” description, Pierotti said if people see someone who matches the description, to not approach them and call police.

When asked by PAN about the potential for racial profiling, Pierotti said he is “absolutely” concerned about it.

“I can appreciate that the information we’ve given, we’ve given three pieces of information, and one of them is race,” Pierotti said.

“Part of that is why I’m saying don’t engage, leave people alone, … but if you see somebody that matches that criteria and I would say that all three of those pieces of information: approximate height, wearing something similar even though it’s been several days, a Black male, then give us a shout.”

The sergeant added that police patrols have been stepped up along the White Rock waterfront in light of the recent incidents.

ALSO READ: White Rock stabbing victim’s medical costs now covered by province

The description released by investigators was based on consistent identifiers given by the multiple witnesses, not surveillance footage of the incident, Pierotti said.

“If one person comes and says ‘Black male’ and the next says something different, that changes our overall picture of what happened. Unfortunately, the information we provide to the public is the best that we have. If we get better information, we will update that as soon as we can,” he explained.

On social media, some residents have expressed concern for the safety of their loved ones who may match the suspect description. In a local community group, one person shared in a comment that their loved one who is a Black man has been receiving accusatory looks since the incidents.

“Us at IHIT are not jumping to conclusions. We’ve been given that description, and it’s important that we relay that to the public,” Pierotti said.

“I can appreciate that by giving that limited information, that there’s going to be some people who match that description that had nothing to do with it. We take that very seriously, which is why we’re not going to be jumping to any conclusions. We’re going to let the evidence lead our investigation and tie it back to the offence.”

Sobia Moman

About the Author: Sobia Moman

Sobia Moman is a news and features reporter with the Peace Arch News.
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