British Columbia

Vancouver police shift blame for riot

Vancouver police are no longer focusing blame on just a core group of people who came prepared to cause trouble for the riot that swept through the city last week.

117 arrested but only 2 charged

Vancouver police are no longer focusing blame on just a core group of people who came prepared to cause trouble for the riot that swept through the city last week.

On Monday, police said their investigation has revealed more details about the background of the rioters that police were not aware of immediately following the riot.

Vancouver police Chief Jim Chu says he is no longer blaming the riot only on a core group of anarchists and criminals who came equipped to cause damage. (CBC)

"Based on the best information we had the following morning, we stated that the instigators among the mob were 'criminals, anarchists and thugs who came to town bent on destruction and mayhem' regardless of the outcome of the game," said police Chief Jim Chu.

"While we are still standing by that observation about the instigators, we are learning that most of the people that joined in the riot and that have now been charged represent a wider spectrum of young people, many of whom do not have criminal records."

The riot broke out after the Vancouver Canucks lost the final game of the Stanley Cup to the Boston Bruins on Wednesday night. More than 100,000 people were downtown to watch the game on giant screens set up in the streets by the City of Vancouver and outside CBC.

117 arrested and 2 charged

Police say 117 people have been arrested in connection with the riot, including roughly 100 people who were arrested during the riot on Wednesday for breach of the peace. About a dozen people also turned themselves in to the Vancouver police and three to other police agencies.

Just two people have been charged, but police have recommended charges against six other men for various offences and those are currently awaiting approval by Crown counsel.

"Edgar Ricardo Garcia, 20, of Burnaby, has been charged with aggravated assault in connection with an incident where two men were stabbed in the 700 block of Hornby Street," said a statement released by Chu on Monday.

"Joshua Lyle Evans, 27, of Calgary, has been charged with possessing a weapon dangerous to the public peace in connection with the same incident," said the statement.

Unique investigation raises challenges

Chu said a team of investigators is checking the mass of information on social media websites and in videos and photographs submitted to police, which is posing unique opportunities and challenges for investigators.

"The sheer volume and speed of the information is overwhelming," said Sgt. Dale Weidman.

"In a routine case we have a clear crime and then take steps to identify the suspect and compile evidence. In these cases, we have names of suspects before we know exactly what they did and where they did it. Obtaining that information quickly is the challenge as we work backwards from the end point to the beginning," said Weidman.

The Integrated Riot Investigative Unit, which was formed to handle the unique investigation will expand to more than three dozen officers and civilian analysts over the next few days, said Chu.

Police have received about 3,500 email tips from the public including:

  • 53 with videos attached.
  • 280 Crime Stoppers tips received.
  • 344 emails containing only text.
  • 676 with links to YouTube.
  • 708 tips with images attached.
  • 1,011 with hyperlinks to other social media sites other than YouTube (mostly Facebook).

"We may not be able to respond to everyone as quickly as we would prefer but we are committed to getting back to every single person who contacts us as soon as we can. In the meantime, I would ask everyone to not destroy any evidence they may have already sent us," said Chu.

The Vancouver police are urging those who were caught in the act on video and in photos to come forward and turn themselves in.

"If you come in voluntarily, you can do so discreetly and at a time that is convenient for you," said Chu.

"If you wait until we find you — and we will find you — we will arrest you in a public manner suitable to the public crimes you have committed."

Violence was predictable: poll 

Meanwhile, a new survey of 906 British Columbians by AngusReid found 90 per cent of those polled said they felt disgust about the riot.

According to the poll, which was conducted last Thursday and Friday, 73 per cent of British Columbians disagreed with statements by officials that there was no way to know that the crowd assembled in downtown Vancouver would become violent.

The poll found 79 per cent of British Columbians agreed that the riot was caused by a small group of people and 66 per cent of British Columbians agreed with the way Vancouver police handled the riots.

However 94 per cent said there needs to be a larger police presence for crowd control in the future. The poll concludes alcohol sales should be banned on the day of a sporting event.

About 60 per cent of those surveyed supported the creation of a single police force that would oversee the entire Lower Mainland.

Pollster Mario Canseco said the online survey of a representative group has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.3 per cent.