For at least two months before a group of armed men robbed the Golden Tree jewelry store at the Willowbrook Shopping Centre, the RCMP in Langley and the Vancouver Police Department (VPD) had been working together on a major case involving both communities.
Police in different Metro communities routinely share resources to work across municipal boundaries when they are investigating criminal cases that cross those boundaries.
In the Langley/Vancouver joint investigation, several officers in the Langley detachment and VPD, including plainclothes detectives and members of the heavily-armed Emergency Response Team, were involved in planning the takedown of a group of suspects.
“A plan was in place,” said Vancouver Const. Lindsay Houghton, spokesperson for the VPD, the lead law enforcement agency on the cross-boundary case.
When the robbers struck during the noon hour on Thursday, the plan was executed less than an hour later with the arrests of six people in Coquitlam and two more in Vancouver.
Houghton said he cannot discuss details of the investigation, because that could interfere with the criminal trial of the eight suspects.
In response to a Times question Monday, Houghton indicated police were not in a position to arrest the suspects before or during the robbery.
“If we had the opportunity to safely prevent a crime from occurring we would have,” Houghton told The Times Monday, emphasizing the word “safely.”
The robbers sprayed employees and bystanders with bear spray and fired gun shots on their way out of the mall.
No one suffered serious injuries, but several adults and at least two small children had to be treated for exposure to the spray.
Full details of the police investigation are expected to emerge during the trial of the eight suspects.
Four are from Surrey, one is from Vancouver, one from Burnaby, one from Alberta and one has no fixed address.
Surrey resident Christopher Leon Reinke, 35, is charged with using a restricted or prohibited weapon for robbery.
The same charge has been laid against Ian Jeffrey Hornal, 44, Aras Ahmed-Kadir, 23, and Hendren Saleh Abbas, 20, also Surrey residents.
Vancouver resident Dale Patrick Weinmeyer, 31, is charged with intentionally discharging a firearm, using a restricted or prohibited weapon to commit a robbery, two counts of possessing a prohibited weapon without a licence and possession of an prohibited or restricted weapon with ammunition.
Burnaby resident Paul Rego, 31, is charged with using a restricted or prohibited weapon for robbery.
Caslan, Alberta resident Lesley Ladouceur, 33, is charged with using a restricted or prohibited weapon for robbery and two counts of assault with a weapon.
No fixed address is recorded for Leonard Cardinal, 31, who is charged with the use of a restricted or prohibited weapon for robbery.
Three of the accused, Ahmed-Kadir, Rego and Abbas were granted bail Monday. Rego and Abbas were not required to post a deposit and were immediately released, while Ahmed-Kadir did not go free right away because he was required to come up with cash. The rest remained in custody awaiting their bail hearings.
The next appearance of all eight in Surrey Provincial court is set for May 18.
Inset pictures above: Armed Surrey Mountie seen reflected in entrance to mall. Vancouver Const. Lindsay Houghton.