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Banquet hall shooter heard voices before opening fire

The man who wore a bullet-proof vest, a hoodie pulled over his head, and gloves as he entered an East Richmond banquet hall last year, before opening fire at his target, suffers from paranoid schizophrenia, a forensic psychiatrist testified Wednesday in Richmond provincial court.

In front of a packed courtroom filled with victims, and their family and friends, Stanley Semrau testified about interviewing the man who is charged with using a nine-millimetre handgun to shoot several people on Jan. 16, 2013 at The Riverside Banquet Hall at 14500 River Rd.

Semrau told the court that Sukhdeep Singh Sandhu—who was 26 at the time of the shooting and is charged with three counts of attempted murder—heard voices as he walked inside the banquet hall.

The voices told him “(the target) had a gun and was going to shoot him,” Semrau testified. The names of the victims and witnesses who were in the banquet hall on the night of the shooting—along with many members of the International Longshore & Warehouse Union who were there to celebrate 10 newly-annointed members and a birthday—are the subject of a court-ordered ban on publication.

Four men were shot that night, including one who spoke to The Richmond Review outside the courtroom Wednesday. He pointed out the remaining scar from a bullet he took to the neck. Fragments of that bullet remain lodged in his neck, near his spine.

He was hospitalized for several days, and suffered some nerve damage that prevents him from doing the work he previously did as a longshoreman. By attending the trial, he hoped to get some closure about the shooting, which he said impacted many lives.

He happened to be sitting near Sandhu’s target when Sandhu opened fire.

During cross-examination by Crown counsel Kerr Clark, the forensic psychiatrist was asked if Sandhu could have made up the story about hearing voices as a “post-offence fabrication to excuse a behaviour.”

Semrau agreed that was possible, and said he does not have any unique power or skill to determine if somebody is telling the truth.

“We are able to in some cases at least tell if someone is fabricating symptoms,” Semrau offered.

But he said he’s aware of cases where people have gone to the library to make themselves experts on mental illness.

Semrau said he completed two proper interviews of Sandhu, and told the court that assessing him was “challenging.”

Sandhu insisted on reading from his notes during his interviews, though that was “less of an issue” during the second interview.

When his target had his hands fidgeting in his pocket, from Sandhu’s perspective, that was indicating he had a gun, Semrau said.

The target of Sandhu’s wrath was shot in the head, abdomen and thigh.

Sandhu, who was shoeless but wearing a red t-shirt, red pants, and black socks as he listened to the testimony, is also charged with one count of aggravated assault and five firearms-related offences.

Defence counsel Danny Markovitz told The Review he expects his client will take the stand in his own defence.

After Sandhu opened fire, he was eventually tackled to the ground, and held in a headlock, though he managed to get free and leave the scene in a vehicle.

But Richmond Mounties arrested him a short time later, and the morning after the shooting, investigators recovered the handgun that Sandhu tossed.

Richmond provincial court Judge Patrick Chen heard that Sandhu is currently on anti-psychotic medication, which Semrau said has the effect of “a partial or sometimes complete” remission of the symptoms of schizophrenia, and would result in the person appearing and behaving normally.

The trial continues.

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