Stanley Cup riot: Investigation still active three years later
Three years after the Stanley Cup riot, the investigation into what transpired on the night of June 15, 2011 is still ongoing.
Vancouver police have not updated their investigation since July of last year, but since that time, investigators have identified and requested charges against 15 more rioters.
In total, police have recommended 1,263 charges against 365 suspected rioters.
“I think it is a fairly big number if you compare it to the riots of ’94, for instance, where very few people were identified and charged,” says Constable Brian Montague with the Vancouver police.
To date, Crown has approved 880 criminal charges against 298 suspected rioters. There are 64 persons against whom the Criminal Justice Branch has concluded that no charges will be approved.
A total of 260 of those charged with criminal offences have pled guilty.
Of the 263 accused who have been convicted or pled guilty, 226 have been sentenced.
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A few cases are still going through the court system, and some convicted rioters are allegedly violating their probation.
Only one identified, accused and charged rioter remains wanted by police — 33-year-old Michelle Scarce. She is wanted Canada-wide.
Scarce was working in Whistler when the riot happened, but has since returned to Australia after her photos surfaced on social media and she was terminated by her employer.
Her face was on one of the “wanted” posters that VPD has distributed in the aftermath of the riot.
A Canada-wide warrant for her arrest was issued last September.
“If she returns to Canada, she will be arrested immediately,” says Montague, adding there is no expiration on arrest warrants.
Another wanted suspect, Nigel Li, a Canadian studying in the United States who has been charged in relation to the riot, turned himself in at the border crossing just a couple of days ago.
But many of the suspected rioters remain unidentified three years down the road and may never face justice.
There are over 180 images of suspects that have yet to be identified on the riot2011.vpd.ca website set up to help police identify suspected rioters.
Montague says they still get an odd tip on the site, especially when they issue updates on the number of charges filed.
“There are still images of individuals up there that the public can provide tips about,” says Montague. “If we do receive information, we will follow up and that could lead to additional charges.”
He says the current riot investigation team is very small compared to what it used to be.
There are two full-time investigators, one part-time investigator and one part-time civilian investigator still working on the case.
Days after the riot, Vancouver police received a great volume of pictures and videos that were used as evidence to accuse and convict some of the suspected rioters.
Montague says the video evidence was processed early in their investigation.
In fall of 2011, Vancouver police sent a team of investigators to Indianapolis to forensically process the massive amount of raw video.
Montague says they did not have the technology to process that much video evidence at the time.
“We now have the technology in Vancouver. We brought it back with us, so it can be used in future incidents.”
The riot caused more than $3 million in damage. Last year, ICBC has filed a civil claim in the Supreme Court of British Columbia against 46 people who have been charged or convicted for their actions in the Stanley Cup riot. Meanwhile, London Drugs is going after right rioters for a total of $50,000 for the merchandise they looted from its downtown drug store.
Montague says he hopes their investigation proved they will go to great lengths to arrest those responsible no matter how much time passes.
“I think one of the things that people think about when they participate in something like that, there is a feeling of anonymity, that they can get away with it, simply because there are so many people participating, that there is no way that police can deal with them all,” he says.
With the use of social media, high definition video and photographs, Montague says they identified many of those responsible. “I hope it gives people an opportunity to think twice before they commit offences like that in the future.”
Montague says there is no way to prevent a riot, but “this has shown that the police will identify you and come after you. Three years down the road, we are still going after some people.”
A report released in September of 2011 said police were in a state of confusion and had lost control of the massive crowd hours before Game 7 of the Stanley Cup series even began.
Montague says the experience is something they use to this day.
He says they police hundreds of large and small events every year.
The Celebration of Light alone attracts an upwards of 300,000 people to the downtown core.
“We look at things like the Stanley Cup riot and Celebration of Light, we police them and after we are done, we have a look to see how we can improve. We are constantly doing that self-autopsy to see how we can do our jobs better and more efficiently,” says Montague.