The sun was still illuminating the glass towers of downtown Vancouver when Spencer Kirkwood stood looking out from an apartment balcony, downing beers after the Canucks lost the Stanley Cup, and remarked on black smoke wafting up from the city core.
“What would possess people to do this?” he remembers saying to friends, as they learned from afar that chaos had broken out following the hometown upset in Game 7 in June 2011.
That’s the last moment the 26-year-old told police he recalls before he went on to join the destructive mob that swept through the city streets.
A videotape of Mr. Kirkwood’s interview with a police officer, where he describes that conversation and other details of the events that night, was played by the Crown during Mr. Kirkwood’s trial Tuesday.
He was charged with participating in a riot, mischief and breach of bail. By pleading not guilty, he has become the first person to go to trial among 110 accused rioters who pleaded guilty to their own roles.
Court heard Mr. Kirkwood told a Mountie and a 911 operator, who he called to report himself two days later, that his mind is blank about what occurred.
“I just wanted to turn myself in because I was just disgusted and I thought that would be the right thing to do,” Mr. Kirkwood says in the videotaped interview with Constable Cathy MacDonald.
“It’s really taken a toll on my conscience.”
In court, Mr. Kirkwood sat slumped with his head down as the statement was played. On the video, he answers every question directly and in soft-spoken tones, telling Constable MacDonald he was “blown away” when a friend alerted him to amateur video footage posted on Facebook that depicts him smashing a store window with a street barricade.
He viewed the video several times and cried, he tells the officer, then phoned his father saying “I think I’m in trouble.”
He told his father he would turn himself in, according to his statement. “I saw me in the video. I couldn’t believe I was involved in something like that,” he tells the officer.
The footage, previously shown in court, depicts a man wearing a green T-shirt with a white hockey stick logo pumping his arms outside a telecommunications store. As the crowd hollers approval, he heaves a long wooden barricade through glass that has only moments earlier been shattered by another man, who kicked it in first. Mr. Kirkwood blends back into the crowd.
The court heard that police became involved when, two days after the riot, Mr. Kirkwood received a threatening phone call from an unknown man not long after viewing the footage for the first time. About 30 minutes later, he called 911, telling the operator he was reporting himself and he didn’t know what else to do.
The Crown played the tape recording in which Mr. Kirkwood says the man told him he’d seen the footage too and then added: “We know who you are.”
“I’m scared, I’m very scared right now. I’m not the type to do that at all,” Mr. Kirkwood tells the operator, adding several times he was very drunk that night.
Court heard Mr. Kirkwood’s version of events, where he described guzzling beer after beer and multiple shots during the game, which he watched with friends on television. He said he only learned later that two of his friends, a couple, had taken him downtown because the other man had wanted to check the scene out. The woman drove Mr. Kirkwood home in her car later that night, and the man had carried him into his bed.