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'Anarchists' not the only rioters: Vancouver police
Published Monday, June 20, 2011 3:11PM PDT Last Updated Saturday, May 19, 2012 2:07AM PDT
Police have arrested 117 people in connection with the Stanley Cup riot, and Vancouver's police chief is acknowledging that most of them aren't the "anarchists" and "thugs" he had made out to be.
Two people are now charged and investigators are recommending charges against another six in the wake of the chaos that Vancouver Police Chief Jim Chu initially blamed on people "disguised as Canuck fans who were actually criminals and anarchists."
While Chu says he still stands behind the theory that those people were the instigators, he acknowledged Monday that most of the troublemakers were garden-variety youths.
"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," Chu said.
Among the recommended charges are allegations against a boy from Maple Ridge whose suspected crimes mirror those of disgraced water polo star Nathan Kotylak.
Police are recommending charges of arson and participation in a riot against the 17-year-old suspect, who cannot be named. The boy has no criminal record, and is accused of lighting a police car on fire in the 100-block of West Georgia Street.
Kotylak was captured in photographs and video holding a flaming shirt to the gas tank of a police car and tossing burning paper into the front seat.
After suffering a vicious public haranguing when the images were displayed online, the Olympic hopeful turned himself in to police on Saturday and made a tearful public apology.
Kotylak is one of 15 people who have surrendered to police in Vancouver and outlying suburbs since the riot.
Police are also recommending a variety of charges including participating in a riot, mischief, break and enter, theft and assaulting a police officer against another five young men, none of whom have previous criminal records.
Two men have been formally charged in connection with a double stabbing in the 700-block of Hornby Street on the night of the riot. Edgar Ricardo Garcia, 20, of Burnaby has been charged with aggravated assault and 27-year-old Joshua Lyle Evans is charged with possession of a dangerous weapon.
Tips pour in
The Vancouver Police Department has been flooded with tips from the angry and embarrassed B.C. public about the perpetrators of the riot. In the four days since the bedlam in downtown Vancouver, the VPD tip line and police spokespeople have received 4,400 emails from members of the public.
Those emails include 708 messages containing images of the riot, 53 with videos and 676 with links to YouTube. Traffic was so high at one point it overloaded the server and shut the website down for hours.
Investigators say that while the massive load of information will help secure charges, it is also creating unique challenges.
"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," Sgt. Dale Weidman said.
The police chief is urging those depicted in the videos and photographs to turn themselves in, threatening public humiliation if they don't.
"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," Chu said.
Police departments across the Lower Mainland are contributing manpower to the new Integrated Riot Investigation Team, which will eventually include more than three dozen officers and civilian specialists.
On Monday, the province and city announced the scope of an independent review into the actions that led to the riot.
Although a lead investigator has yet to be named, the scope of the inquiry will include the application of lessons learned from the 1994 riot, police and city planning and the availability of alcohol at public events.