700 Cup rioters could be charged, police chief says
VANCOUVER — Vancouver police are recommending 163 charges be laid against 60 people in the Stanley Cup riot — but they expect eventually to see charges laid against as many as 700 individuals.
“This is just the beginning,” police Chief Jim Chu said Monday at a news conference. “We expect to announce more arrests in the weeks and months ahead. Every day we receive more tips and our new forensic video lab, funded by the province, [it] produces more evidence.”
Chu said the riot investigation, stemming from the events of June 15 after the Vancouver Canucks lost Game 7 of the Stanley Cup to the Boston Bruins, is the largest in Vancouver police history, and investigators have taken the time to get it right.
Rioters torched cars, smashed windows and looted downtown stores, causing millions of dollars in damage.
“The statistics are staggering and continue to grow,” the chief said.
Police have recorded 15,000 criminal acts, all of which have been tagged in a computer database.
Police repeatedly have said investigators wanted to conduct a thorough review of hundreds of photos and thousands of hours of video shot by citizens on cellphones and cameras before recommending charges.
On Monday, Chu defended that decision.
“Over the past few months, there have been those who told us that our decision to be thorough was wrong. They urged us to rush cases to court,” Chu said.
“We believe the community supports the independence of the police and our professional judgment to conduct thorough investigations, not cut corners in order to satisfy the vocal criticisms of a few.”
As an example, he cited the case of a 21-year-old Vancouver Island man whose photo was posted on Facebook days after the riot.
The man contacted police and wanted to apologize for damaging a single car, Chu explained.
Investigators initially were going to recommend a single charge against the young man, but held off until video had been processed at a lab in Indianapolis, where officers “tagged” each criminal incident, using descriptors of each person involved.
Within 20 minutes of investigators putting the man’s descriptors in the database, the computer returned numerous “hits,” returning new videos of the same suspect engaged in further offences — including smashing a window of a car with a skateboard, helping to flip a car, damaging the door of a police car and jumping on three other vehicles — Chu said.
The same man was also found to have broken into a coffee shop, a clothing store and a department store in downtown Vancouver.
He is now facing six counts of mischief and three counts of break and enter, Chu said.
Chu said he doesn’t know how much the riot investigation has cost so far, but said the B.C. government picked up the $300,000 tab to send investigators to a video lab in Indianapolis to comb through 5,000 hours of video in 100 different formats.
About half that cost was for the travel and accommodation of the investigators, said Sgt. Dale Weidman, the lead investigator.
Ten of the suspects in the first batch of charges are women and 50 are men, ranging in age from 16 to 52.
B.C. Attorney General Shirley Bond said she is glad to see the first charges being reviewed by the Crown for approval.
“I was very relieved last week to see some of the files starting to arrive,” she said Monday. “The balance of the 60 files did arrive today.”
Crown spokesman Neil Mackenzie said Monday he doesn’t know how long it will take for the five prosecutors assigned to the riot cases to approve charges. Some reports contain 500 pages and most include video and photographic evidence.