One of two men charged this week in relation to the 2010 shooting death of Mandy Johnson of Langley was previously identified as the leader of a gang involved in the Townline Hill conflict in Abbotsford.
In an interview with The News last September, Abbotsford Police Chief Bob Rich identified Gavinder (Gavin) Grewal (in photo below), 29, as the leader of one of two rivals gangs battling over drug turf in west Abbotsford.
He said the other gang was led by Sandeep Sidhu and Jimi Sandhu, who has since been deported.
All three were the subject of a public notice by police in March 2015, warning that they posed a risk of “significant harm to the safety of the community and anyone who may associate with them.”
On Wednesday of this week, the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team (IHIT) announced that Grewal had been arrested June 10 in Port Moody – he had moved there from Abbotsford – and was being charged with manslaughter in relation to Johnson’s killing.
Co-accused Jason Himpfen, 41, was arrested early Wednesday morning as he was released from the Fraser Regional Correction Centre, where he had just completed a 12-month sentence for an unrelated incident.
He has been charged with second-degree murder in connection to Johnson’s death.
Grewal and Himpfen have also each been charged with the attempted murder of Johnson’s boyfriend, Gater Browne, who was said to be the actual target of the shooting.
Johnson, 22, was shot and killed while sitting in the passenger seat of a Chevy Tahoe on July 28, 2010 at about 3 a.m. in the 31100 block of Polar Avenue, just west of Townline Road in Abbotsford. Her body was found lying on the ground next to the Tahoe.
Browne, now 37, was shot at but no bullets struck him and he was able to flee the scene.
Police at the time said they believed the incident was linked to the street-level drug trade. They reported that the shooter – or shooters – had fled in a silver car.
Following Johnson’s death, a friend told The News that Johnson, a single mother of a young daughter, was not involved in criminal activity and had been “at the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong person.”
“She was an innocent fun-loving mother who had nothing to do with the drug trade and cared so much about people,” the friend said.
IHIT Staff Sgt. Jennifer Pound said it has taken time for investigators to gather enough evidence to lay charges in the case.
She said IHIT and the Abbotsford Police Department (APD) have been “tenaciously working together.”
“This tragic incident is another example of how difficult homicide investigations can be and highlights the dedication that is required from investigators,” she said.
“IHIT has remained committed to obtaining justice for Mandy Johnson despite the passage of time and we would be remiss if we did not thank the family and friends for their patience and trust in us for the past six years.”
IHIT released a statement on behalf of Johnson’s mother, who described her daughter as “caring, compassionate and full of life.”
“Mandy was innocent and did not deserve to die … This selfish act has changed my life, and the lives of those who knew her, forever. Her only fault was falling in love with a guy that didn’t deserve her and trusting that her love would be enough,” the statement read.
She thanked investigators for their “hard work and perseverance” in the case.
Grewal and Himpfen have extensive criminal backgrounds.
Himpfen (in photo at left), 41, has convictions that include carrying a loaded and prohibited weapon, breaching his conditions, and numerous counts of theft and possessing a controlled substance.
In 2004, he was charged with attempted murder after firing shots at an apartment complex at 33900 Mayfair Ave. in Abbotsford. Police had been at the complex, executing a search warrant, when Himpfen drove up, fired a gun and fled.
A 23-year-old woman suffered a gunshot wound to her foot. Himpfen was convicted the following year of the lesser charge of aggravated assault and was sentenced to six months in prison, followed by three years of probation.
Grewal has a 2012 conviction for extortion and a 2013 conviction for possession of a controlled substance for the purpose of trafficking, and was prohibited from possessing firearms.
Following Johnson’s killing, Browne, who had several prior convictions, had further difficulties with the law.
In early 2012, he was sentenced to 4.5 years in prison after pleading guilty to numerous offences related to seven different incidents, including two police chases. During one, he collided with a vehicle occupied by four people, and sped away from the scene.
Following the other, a “man purse” he had thrown on the ground was found to contain a fully loaded Ruger SR9 pistol that had previously been stolen from a Delta home.
His charges included possession of a stolen vehicle, assault, dangerous driving, leaving the scene of an accident, possession of a handgun and possession of methamphetamine.
Browne blamed the crime spree on heavy drug use – mainly meth – that he said had been spurred by Johnson’s killing and repeated police warnings that his own life was in danger. He also admitted to having been involved in a gang for seven years.
Browne indicated that Johnson had urged him to leave the gang lifestyle, as a condition leading to marriage, and he had tried to do so.
Himpfen is next slated to appear July 5 in B.C. Supreme Court in New Westminster, while Grewal is scheduled to appear June 23 in Abbotsford provincial court.