Teen athlete apologizes for Vancouver riot role

An up-and-coming water polo athlete is reported to be among several people who have turned themselves in to police after being photographed during last week's Stanley Cup riot in Vancouver.

Olympic hopeful among rioters

11 years ago
Duration 1:57
The CBC's Lisa Johnson reports on the teen seen with a lighter near the gas tank of a police car that exploded during the Vancouver riot

An up-and-coming water polo athlete is reported to be among several people who have turned themselves in to police after being photographed during the Stanley Cup riot in Vancouver.

Nathan Kotylak, 17, was caught on camera holding a rag and a lighter  near the gas tank of a police car during events that unfolded Wednesday night after the Vancouver Canucks loss to the Boston Bruins. Pictures later show the cruiser on fire, as a cheering crowd looks on at a parking lot at Cambie and Georgia streets.

Media reports say the Maple Ridge, B.C., teen apologized for his actions after speaking to police on Saturday. He told Global B.C. what he did was "dumb" and that he was "caught up in the moment."

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Global said his family got a court order allowing him to go public with his apology Saturday evening. The teen told the media outlet he wants to own up to what he did and encourage others to do the same, adding, "I’m just ashamed."

Kotylak chose not to attend his high school convocation last week and apologized to his teachers and peers saying his actions were not a representation of who he wants to be.

He also urged others involved in Wednesday's rioting to take responsibility for their actions and own up to their misdeeds. In addition, he apologized to the Vancouver Canucks, the city and the police.

Lawyer Bart Findlay, who represents Kotylak, told The Canadian Press the teenager's decision to speak openly showed he was a "very brave young man" who was accepting responsibility for his actions.

"He is a good kid who got caught up in the moment and made some bad choices," Findlay said. "It's actually refreshing to see somebody as brave as him to step forward, accept responsibility and man up in the way that he has."

Kotylak also said he was sorry on Facebook.

"I apologize for the damage I've caused," he said on his page, which carried a picture of him posing in a pool with a polo ball.

Family concerned for their safety

The one-line statement prompted a barrage of largely negative comments on his actions.

The online venom reached a point where Kotylak's father, who is a doctor in Maple Ridge, suspended his medical practice and the family made a decision to leave their home temporarily, said Findlay.

"The family has been concerned for their safety," he said. "It's kind of odd because we see the mob mentality that's been shown on TV through the riot, we're experiencing very much the same thing online."

Vancouver police were unable to comment on any potential case against Kotylak as his age would prevent police from identifying him under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

"The fact that some people, youth included, are choosing to self-identify is something out of our control and not something we can speak to," said spokesman Lindsey Houghton.

His father said the photo was misleading and his son didn't light the car on fire. Kotylak attends a private school and plays water polo on Canada's junior national team.

The teen had received a partial scholarship to attend the University of Calgary to study kinesiology, and hoped one day to compete in the Olympics, according to his father.

Water Polo Canada announced on Friday that it had suspended a high-level polo player over allegations he was involved in the riot.

Ahmed El-Awadi, executive director of Water Polo Canada, said in a news release that the player, who was not named, has contacted the organization through a lawyer to indicate he will co-operate fully with any disciplinary process.

With files from The Canadian Press