If he could relive the night of the Stanley Cup riot, Robert MacKay said he would have just gone home with his girlfriend after the Vancouver Canucks lost to the Boston Bruins, as chaos and violence erupted around him. Instead, MacKay stepped between a mob of looters and the Bay department store, triggering an assault that left him recovering from his injuries for nearly three weeks.
“I would never tell anyone to do what I did,” MacKay testified Wednesday at the trial of four men accused of attacking him.
On the night of June 15, 2011, a group of 15 people assaulted MacKay, a 39-year-old chef who has been dubbed a Good Samaritan for trying to fend off the looters.
Carlos Barahona Villeda, Ioannis Kangles, Michael MacDonald and David Leonati are charged with assault and for participating in a riot. They have pleaded not guilty.
Defence lawyer David Gable, who is representing Villeda, suggested during cross-examination that MacKay – who told the court it was out of character to put himself in the middle of such a dangerous situation – might have had too much to drink that night.
“So can we say, looking back on it ... perhaps the alcohol may have influenced your better judgment?” Gable asked.
“I’m not sure if I would have approached the store the same way I did if I was sober,” MacKay answered.
On Tuesday, MacKay told the court he watched Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final with his girlfriend – who is now his fiancee – and some friends at a downtown Vancouver hotel.
After the game ended, he headed to the downtown core saw smoke coming out of a parkade several blocks away. People were amassing in front of the Bay, so he went to investigate, he said.
MacKay, a six-foot-two man who weighs 250 pounds, estimated he had about six or seven sleeves of beer over the course of the game. He said the booze left him feeling “slightly buzzed” and in a happy mood.
When asked by Gable whether he could have actually had more glasses of beer than that, perhaps eight or nine, MacKay said it was possible.
On Wednesday, the court was shown several videos clips – some of which have been aired many times in the media and on the Internet – of MacKay as he walked through the masses of people during the night of the riot. In some clips, cheering and hooting can be heard and people are seen jumping on newspaper boxes or trying to break store windows by kicking them or hitting them with objects.
In one shot, MacKay is seen wearing a black golf shirt and a cap, walking back and forth along one side of the Bay’s store windows, waving his arms around in front of a loud crowd that seem to be trying to get close to the store. Another man in a white Canucks jersey is also pacing and waving his arms like MacKay.
“I was waving my arms out, trying to prevent people from smashing the window,” MacKay recalled.
In another video clip, the sounds of glass shattering can be heard and two men are seen in front of a broken window. MacKay approaches one of the men who is dressed in red, and he wraps his arms around him and throws him away from the store.
In a third clip, a different man is seen moving towards MacKay with what appears to be a pole. MacKay yanks the pole away from the man, and then moves towards a mob of people with the pole in front of him.
“I was just trying to clear people from the store front,” he said.
MacKay admitted that adrenaline, as well as alcohol, might have prompted him to act the way he did. He said he does not remember if he said anything to the man who went at him with the pole as he tried to push him and others back, though Gable suggested he did.
“‘Do you want to eat this?’ Is it possible you said that?” the lawyer asked.
“I guess it would be possible, but I’d be shocked if I did,” MacKay said. “It wasn’t in my nature to go after him like that.”
A group of people are then seen in the video clip grabbing MacKay from behind and punching him in the head and in the back until he is knocked to the ground, where they appear to kick him until two people move in to help him get up.
MacKay testified earlier in the trial that he was also pepper sprayed, which left his arms stinging for some time after. He also suffered injuries to his head, face, ribs and back.
The Vancouver police said that a total of 290 have been charged in connection with the riot, which caused millions of dollars of damage in the downtown core.
Dozens of people have already pleaded guilty and received their sentences.