The first shot erupted from a car window hitting no one, but the next bullets took the life of Rex Gill.
A Penticton man is recounting the morning he watched his friend, a 41-year-old Summerland resident, get gunned down outside of the Kamloops Comfort Inn and Suites on Jan. 23.
RCMP immediately linked Gill’s death to another Kamloops shooting that took place the same morning outside of a different hotel.
“I was standing right beside him when it happened,” said the man.
“I was two feet away from him, having a smoke. Then a car pulled up beside the truck we were standing beside, took one shot and hit the tailgate … then they took four more shots at us,” said the man. “I dove behind the truck and turned just as Rex was hit, so I watched him get shot.”
Police said early on that the deaths were linked to organized crime, noting that Gill was not previously known to them, while the other victim, Cody Marcel Mathieu, 33, was linked to the drug trade. The witness to Gill’s death, who wishes to remain anonymous for safety and privacy concerns, knew him personally and said there was no chance he was involved in any type of drug trade.
“It was definitely a case of mistaken identity – he had nothing to do with the drug trade anywhere and let alone in Kamloops.”
The man explained that he and Gill were in the city for work, and were outside smoking when the gunfire erupted. He said he gave his statement to Kamloops RCMP, who have not been in touch with him since.
“Apparently (the shooter) was the same person (who attacked Mathieu). The description of the vehicle or something was the same so it was the same person,” said the witness.
A release recently issued by the Kamloops RCMP said the two ongoing homicide investigations are being handled by the Special Crimes Unit, who are treating them as top priorities. The release also said suspects have been identified for these two homicides but no arrests have been made.
“It’s bothered me that the cops say the public have no fear of being in danger because we’re just the public. But we had nothing to do with it and one of us is dead because of it. The public does have something to fear, because otherwise, we’d be fine.”
The witness said Gill’s death left a lasting impact on him, deeply shaking his sense of security.
“I don’t go anywhere; I go to work and stay in a motel. I don’t leave, I can’t even go out for a walk or nothing. Just because it was pretty scary.”
Matthew Baran, executive director of Ooknakane Friendship Centre and a personal friend of Gill’s, is also upset with how information was released in regards to the shooting, claiming the police should have taken more care when they “portrayed Gill in the drug trade.”
Baran said he has spoken with Gill’s family since the most recent RCMP release about his homicide, and they are disappointed in the lack of communication.
“The RCMP didn’t contact them directly to notify them (about the mistaken identity). That would have been more appropriate than releasing it in a news release that was somewhat focusing on another situation.” said Baran.
He said ‘it was not a revelation to the family” that Gill’s death was likely a case of mistaken identity.
“It’s unfortunate that the RCMP painted the situation with that brush. I understand that they have to do what they have to do,” said Baran.
“But it was a little premature to make the suggestion and imply that he was involved or invested in that situation. It just wasn’t normal to his character.”
Baran said those who knew Gill “take those experiences and share them with other people” in order to honour his memory.