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Victim of Burnaby shooting was suspect in Coquitlam murder, court hears

Ahmed Riyaz Tahir, 21, has been handed a life sentence with no chance of parole for 17 years for the murder of Blerton (Toni) Dalipi, 19, outside Boss Vapes in Burnaby. At Tahir's sentencing, the court heard Dalipi had been a suspect in the killing of Bailey McKinney on a Coquitlam basketball court in April 2021.

The 19-year-old gunned down in front of a Burnaby vape store last year was a suspect in the shooting death of another young man on a Coquitlam basketball court a few weeks earlier, according to information presented in Vancouver Supreme Court this week.

Blerton (Toni) Dalipi, 19, was shot five times from behind with a 9mm Smith & Wesson handgun outside the Boss Vapes store on Sixth Street near 13th Avenue just before 7 p.m. on May 8, according to agreed facts read out during a sentencing hearing for his killer, Ahmed Riyaz Tahir, Friday.

The court heard Dalipi had been under surveillance by the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team that day as a suspect in the deadly daylight shooting of 20-year-old Bailey McKinney while he was playing basketball in Coquitlam’s Town Centre Park on April 19, 2021.

“Mr. Tahir believed Mr. Dalipi was responsible for the murder of Mr. McKinney, his friend,” defence lawyer Troy Anderson told the court.

According to the agreed facts in the case, Tahir waited outside Boss Vapes for two minutes and 50 seconds for Dalipi to leave the store before he shot him five times from behind and ran away west on 13th Avenue.

He was arrested a short time later when a local resident discovered him hiding under a vehicle in an open garage in the 7800 block of 13th Avenue, according to the agreed facts.

Lives lost

Anderson called the web of gun violence “a tragedy.”

“We have, if you accept the police theory, two young men under the age of 20, or about the age of 20, dead and a young man in his early 20s going to prison for life,” he said.

Tahir pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in June for Dalipi’s killing.

He had originally been charged with first-degree murder and aggravated assault – the second charge related to injuries sustained by a bystander outside Boss Vapes.

Second-degree murder comes with an automatic life sentence with no chance of parole for a minimum of 10 years.

In a joint sentencing submission Friday, Anderson and Crown prosecutor Jeremy Hermanson called for a 17-year period without parole eligibility.

B.C. Supreme Court associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes accepted the joint submission.

“The sentence in this case must be a heavy one, even for a young man such as Mr. Tahir. Gun crimes are a high concern in the community.”

She noted the killing had had “appalling consequences” for Dalipi’s family.

And, while Tahir may have believed Dalipi was responsible for McKinney’s death, Holmes said that “does not mitigate his offence in any way.”

Besides the life sentence, Holmes handed Tahir a lifetime firearms ban, ordered him to provide a DNA sample and ordered the murder weapon to be forfeited.

Coquitlam homicide case closed

IHIT confirmed to the Tri-City News in April that it had closed McKinney’s case because the person “responsible” for his death had died in another targeted shooting that was connected to his case.

The homicide team said the shooting had been connected to gangs but not to the greater Lower Mainland gang conflict that erupted in the spring of 2021.

 “What happened to Bailey McKinney is tragic,” read an emailed statement from IHIT Sgt. David Lee. “Equally tragic is the violence that resulted from that. These events escalate and often end with persons in jail or dead.”

Dalipi’s family has been “shattered” by his death, according to victim impact statements written by his mother, father and twin sister, Blertina.

“He was my little boy,” his mother Ganimete Dalipi said. “My youngest. He adored me and I adored him back. I no longer get to see his beautiful face.”

Fatmir Dalipi said he will never be able to erase from his mind the images posted on social media of his son’s last moments.

“I will never be able to strip that horrible image of my son laying there on that concrete sidewalk and terrified for his life, out of my head,” he said.

Besides having to deal with their grief, Fatmir Dalipi said his family also received death threats after his son's murder.

The threats eventually forced the family to cancel a celebration of life for Toni, according to his father.

Follow Cornelia Naylor on Twitter @CorNaylor
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