Vancouver police recommend 163 charges against rioters
Published Monday, October 31, 2011 6:54PM EDT
Nearly five months after rioters smashed windows, looted shops and set cars on fire, the Vancouver police say they have recommended 163 charges to be laid against 60 people allegedly involved in June's Stanley Cup final riots.
Police want to charge all 60 -- 50 men and 10 women -- with taking part in a riot. Other charges recommended to the Crown include assault, mischief and break and enter.
The youngest suspect is 16, the oldest is 52.
Police Chief Jim Chu made the long-awaited announcement Monday morning in Vancouver, and acknowledged criticism that the police force took too long to recommend charges related to the riot.
He said the force has been thorough in its investigation and plans to make more arrests and recommend more charges.
"This is just the beginning," he said. "We expect to announce more arrests in the weeks and months ahead."
Vancouver police say as many as 700 people could eventually end up facing charges and the investigation may continue for at least another year.
Investigators have spent months reviewing thousands of videos and images that were captured during the riots, as they tried to identify the people responsible for setting fires, looting stores and destroying property in downtown Vancouver.
Chu called it the "largest crime spree in the history of B.C."
"In the minds of many, today has been a long time coming and I share those frustrations," Chu said.
"I wish there could have been a quicker and simpler way to bring the rioters before the courts and as tempting as it may have been to some to take these shortcuts, we still believe that we owed it to the victims of the riot and the residents of the community to take the time necessary to build the best cases possible."
In the process, the police created a website to allow members of the public to view some of the images that were collected from the riots, in the hopes that they could help police nail down the identities of the people involved.
As of mid-October, at least 79 people, 65 men and 14 women, have come forward to police and admitted to their involvement in the riot.
Chu outlined recommended charges against three men in their early 20s, including a Vancouver Island man who came forward to apologize for his involvement in damaging a car.
However, Chu said that when investigators searched the man's description in the video database, the computer returned numerous hits showing the suspect allegedly damaging six vehicles, including an unmarked police car.
In the second case, a 21-year-old man was seen on video looting a store while masking his face with a shirt. Chu said the man's fate "was sealed by DNA collected at the scene."
The third case involved a man whose photo in a newspaper showed him reaching into a broken store window. The man had told officers he was touching a dress on a mannequin, but never took it.
Chu said the video, however, showed the man running down the street with the stolen dress and tossing it into a fire.
"Based on this video, this suspect will be facing charges for arson, break and enter and participating in a riot," he said.
An earlier report said police were overwhelmed by drunken fans who had taken to Vancouver's downtown core to watch game seven of the Stanley Cup finals on large TV screens.
The Canucks lost the game to the Boston Bruins, 4-0.