2 people shot, 8 arrested in targeted Downtown Eastside violence, say Vancouver police

Two blocks of East Hastings were shut down Thursday evening as police investigated several serious assaults on June 1, 2023. (Liam Britten/CBC - image credit)
Two blocks of East Hastings were shut down Thursday evening as police investigated several serious assaults on June 1, 2023. (Liam Britten/CBC - image credit)

Vancouver police said eight people were arrested Thursday evening after officers flooded the city's poorest neighbourhood to respond to reports of shots fired.

Two men were sent to hospital with gunshot wounds.

The update comes hours after VPD said it was investigating a string of "serious assaults" in the Downtown Eastside that shut down a stretch of East Hastings Street.

"Responding officers were faced with a chaotic scene. Someone had obviously been shot, but it was unclear who was involved," said Const. Tania Visintin in a news release Friday. "Officers worked quickly to secure the crime scene and ensure that the public was safe."

Police said Friday the two victims are believed to have non-life-threatening injuries. Investigators say they believe the incident was a targeted shooting.

WATCH | Stretch of East Hastings Street closed by Vancouver police:

Police blocked public access to East Hastings between Gore and Carrall streets in the afternoon as well as some adjacent alleyways. East Hastings from Gore to Main streets began to reopen shortly before 7 p.m.

Around 20 police vehicles, at least one ambulance and one B.C. Emergency Health Services vehicle were on the scene shortly before 6:30 p.m.

The activity appeared to be concentrated near the intersection of East Hastings and Columbia streets, where officers could be seen placing evidence markers on the ground and taking measurements.

Two people on scene told CBC News they could also see blood on the ground at that intersection.

Julia Davis, a server at the Savoy Pub on East Hastings near Main, told CBC News that police said someone had a gun inside the bar.

"We came out, and all the cops .... had guns toward us, and they told us to get behind the van," said Davis. "The guns freaked me out — shotguns pointed at us."

Davis says police told her and other bar staff and patrons to exit and then went inside with their guns raised.

Jean-Marc Poirier/CBC News
Jean-Marc Poirier/CBC News

"We've never seen no gun; there's all our regulars, so we were really confused about what's going on," said Davis.

She said it was a "scary" evening for the neighbourhood and everyone at the bar.

"This is not normal for us," she said. "We are the Downtown Eastside but all our regulars; they come in, and they don't flash guns around. They don't threaten us. They don't cause problems."

Shots fired

Police said Friday that witnesses called 911 to report shots fired near East Hastings and Columbia just before 4:30 p.m.

When officers arrived, they located a victim with gunshot wounds, while several people were seen fleeing the area on foot.

The victim was taken to hospital by paramedics, and shortly after, a second person who had also been shot arrived at the emergency room of a local hospital.

There was also a heavy police presence at St. Paul's Hospital Thursday afternoon.

Police are seeking tips from the public. Anyone with information is asked to call VPD's Major Crime Section at 604-717-2541 or, to remain anonymous, Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 or www.solvecrime.ca.