Chief Constable Jim Chu
On the night of June 15th, thousands of people committed criminal acts, destroying property, stealing property, and assaulting those who got in their way. It became, by many measures, the largest crime spree in the history of B.C. The statistics are staggering and continue to grow. You have all been given a separate fact sheet with those stats.
The Integrated Riot Investigation Team, made up of eight police agencies, has done an incredible job handling the largest investigation in our city’s history. It’s been daunting, time-consuming and exhaustive. But we knew it would be.
On the morning of June 16th, while burned cars were being towed and broken glass swept up, we made a decision. We decided then that we owed it to the victims of this crime and the outraged people of our community to do the right thing.
That meant we were making a commitment to pursue the rioters, and to use new approaches to identify them and to bring before the courts the full extent of the crimes committed by each rioter to ensure the most serious sentences.
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.
But we believe the public expects more from the police. We believe the community supports the independence of the police and our professional judgement to conduct thorough investigations, not cut corners in order to satisfy the vocal criticisms of a few.
The decision we made on June 16th has led us to today. I am very pleased to tell you that we have been arresting suspected rioters and recommending charges to Crown Counsel. So far, 60 people have been identified and we have recommended that each of them be charged with participating in a riot along with other charges of mischief, assault, break and enter, and other charges. There are a total of 163 charges recommended for these individuals.
This is just the beginning as 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, produces more evidence, which Sergeant Dale Weidman will speak more about in a minute.
Let me give you some examples of the type of cases we are building against the rioters. These are cases that would never have been possible had we rushed the investigation.
A 21 year old man from Vancouver Island is facing multiple criminal charges for his role in the riot.
A few days after the riot, the man saw his picture posted on Facebook. The suspected rioter contacted police and wanted to apologize for damaging a car. Police interviews were conducted and we were prepared to recommend charges for a single count of mischief.
Armed with our data from the LEVA lab in Indianapolis, investigators searched for the suspect’s descriptors in the video database and the computer returned numerous “hits.” The computer was able to cull all the processed video in less than 20 minutes, and expose corroborating and new videos of this same suspect engaged in further offences, including:
- mischief to six vehicles in a two-block radius
- smashing a window with a borrowed skateboard
- assisting in flipping a car
- damaging the door of unmarked police car
- jumping on vehicles
- three break-and-enters: to a (1) coffee shop, (2) clothing store and (3) department store
Even though forensic video evidence is a crucial part of the overall riot investigation, for a 21 year old man from Burnaby his fate was sealed by DNA collected at the scene.
Investigators were able to collect DNA from blood left at the scene of a break-and-enter to a sporting goods store in the 900 block Robson. This man is known to police and has a previous criminal history of trafficking drugs and crimes of violence. We were able to arrest this man at his home.
With our new capabilities in locating targets, we were able to find this same man in a number of other videos. In the 700 block Robson, he was seen punching a random unknown victim in the back of his head. This victim was knocked out and fell to the pavement unconscious, as our alleged suspect ran off into the crowd. A separate video was located showing the man running into and looting a store, while obscuring his face with his shirt.
Prior to our analysis at the LEVA lab in Indianapolis, those that masked up might never have been identified. But because of the over 15,000 criminal acts tagged in our video database, we are now able to identify suspected rioters from different locations and videos.
For this rioter, the following charges have been recommended to Crown Counsel:
- assault causing bodily harm
- break and enter
- disguise with intent to commit an indictable offence
- participating in a riot
A white belt. Prior to our video search all we had was a picture appearing in the newspaper of this suspect reaching into a broken window. This man said he was just touching a dress on a mannequin but he never took it. That was all investigators had to go on when they entered in the search parameters on this suspected rioter. Without the database and work done in the lab in Indianapolis, the investigation would have probably ended there. However, we have this valuable database tool and in less than 15 seconds, a video popped up showing this suspect running down the street with a garment stolen from a department store (600 block Granville Street). He is then seen throwing the garment into a burning fire.
Based on this video, this suspect will be facing charges for arson, break and enter, and participating in a riot.
These are just some of the success stories we have had by assembling the video in our forensic video lab, and thoroughly investigating and accumulating all the evidence.
We have also supplied you with a list of other cases included in this first wave of 60 people we are recommending be charged.
In a moment, I will ask Sergeant Weidman to elaborate and Crown Counsel spokesperson Neil McKenzie to give you an idea of where we go from here.
In the minds of many, today has been a long time coming and I share those frustrations. 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 those short cuts, we still believe that we owed it to the victims of the riot and the residents of community to take the time necessary to build the best cases possible.
The road we have chosen to bring these rioters to justice has never been an easy one. We have taken extraordinary measures because this was an extraordinary event that our community will never forget.
The people who rampaged that night must be held accountable for their actions, as the VPD will be held accountable by the courts for how we investigated their crimes.
We wouldn’t want it any other way.