Ripudaman Singh Malik, the man who was acquitted in the 1985 Air India bombings, was fatally shot in Canada in what authorities are investigating as a targeted shooting.
Malik, 75, was reportedly in his red Tesla outside a business center in Surrey, British Columbia, when he was shot dead on Thursday morning.
Police confirmed that gunshots had been fired at around 9:30 a.m. local time. An employee at a nearby car wash who heard the gunshots ran outside and found Malik unconscious in his car.
“There were three gunshots,” the employee told CBC News. “One hit on the neck, that’s it. And I just took him out. He was alive. I waited for like 10, 15 minutes, then the cops came.”
Police said Malik succumbed to his injuries at the scene.
Shortly after the attack, a vehicle that is believed to belong to the suspect was found engulfed in fire a few blocks away from the scene.
“The investigation is in the early stages and police are still looking for the suspect and a second vehicle that may have been used as a getaway vehicle,” the Royal Canadian Mounted Police reportedly said.
Malik first emigrated to Canada from India in 1972 and worked as a cab driver before becoming a multi-millionaire businessman in British Columbia. He reportedly became an influential member of British Columbia’s Sikh separatist movement.
Along with co-accused Ajaib Singh Bagri, Malik was exonerated of murder and conspiracy charges in 2005 after being accused of the 1985 Air India terror attack that killed 331 people.
A bomb in a suitcase was loaded onto Air India Flight 182 on June 23, 1985, and it exploded mid-air, causing the aircraft to crash into the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Ireland. Another bomb also prematurely exploded Tokyo’s Narita Airport about an hour later, leading to the deaths of two baggage handlers.
The attack was widely believed to have been plotted by Canadian-based Sikhs as a retaliation for the deadly 1984 Operation Blue Star at the Golden Temple at Punjab, India.
Malik and Bagri were previously arrested in 2000 and charged with 329 counts of first-degree murder. Inderjit Singh Reyat, the other man who was accused and convicted in the terror attack, testified for the prosecution at Malik and Bagri’s trial. However, Malik and Bagri were acquitted when Reyat said he could not remember the names of those involved nor the details of the plot.
“The media will always refer to him as someone charged with the Air India bombing. He was wrongly charged,” Jaspreet, Malik’s son, wrote on Facebook. “The media and RCMP never seemed to accept the Court’s decision and I pray today’s tragedy is not related.”
“My father’s commitment was to his community and his family, and his goal was to see the immigrant Sikh community thrive through education and financial security,” he added. “His legacy lives on through Khalsa Credit Union and Khalsa School. He is survived by his wife, five children, four daughter-in-laws and eight grandchildren.”
The Integrated Homicide Investigation Team (IHIT) is currently investigating the death of Malik.
Anyone with information or those traveling in the 8200 block of 128 Street or the area of 122 Street and 82 Avenue in Surrey between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. on Thursday is urged to call IHIT at 1-877-551-4448 or email [email protected]