Police urge charges for 60 people

VANCOUVER -- In what is called the largest crime spree in Vancouver history, police recommend that 60 people be charged with everything from assault to breaking and entering after the downtown Stanley Cup riot last June.

Police chief Jim Chu said Monday a forensic video database was used to analyze characteristics of suspects. They asked the Crown to approve 163 charges against 60 people.

The June 15 riot put police under pressure to recommend charges quickly after thousands of people lit fires, burned cars and looted stores following the Vancouver Canucks' loss to the Boston Bruins in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals.

"It became, by many measures, the largest crime spree in the history of B.C.," Chu said at a news conference.

The recommendations have been forwarded to British Columbia prosecutors, who will determine if the charges go forward. Names of suspected rioters were not released.

Chu said officers needed the last four months to investigate.

"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 those 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."

Chu outlined recommended charges against three men in their early 20s, including one who saw his picture from the riot posted on Facebook.

The chief said the Vancouver Island man contacted police to apologize for damaging a car and that after police interviewed him, they were initially prepared to recommend a charge of mischief.

But Chu said investigators then searched for the man's description in the database of riot video they'd asked the public to download onto a police website. The computer returned numerous hits showing the suspect allegedly damaging six vehicles, including an unmarked police car.

In another case, Chu said a 21-year-old man's fate was sealed by DNA collected at the scene. He said the same suspect was seen on video looting a store while masking his face with his shirt and punching a random victim in the back of the head, rendering him unconscious.

Chu said a third case involved a man whose newspaper photo showed him reaching into a broken store window. The man told officers he was just touching a dress on a mannequin, but never took it. The video, however, showed him running down the street with the stolen garment and tossing it onto a fire.

"This man is known to police and has a previous criminal history of trafficking drugs and crimes of violence," Chu said. "The people who rampaged that night must be held accountable for their actions."

An earlier report concluded police were overwhelmed by a massive and largely drunken crowd that streamed into the downtown core to watch the game on large TV screens.