Toronto Police have charged a man with mischief for allegedly throwing a beer can toward an outfielder during a Blue Jays playoff game after the high-profile incident ignited a firestorm of disgust as well as questions about investigators’ actions in releasing the suspect’s photograph.
Kenneth Pagan, 41, of Hamilton, was charged after surrendering to police on Thursday evening. He is to appear in court on Nov. 24.
The arrest came some 24 hours after police distributed a photo of a man they allege hurled a can of beer onto the field in the seventh inning of Tuesday’s wild-card game between the Blue Jays and the Baltimore Orioles. Investigators asked anyone who knew the suspect to contact police and also urged the man to turn himself in.
After the can was thrown in the direction of Orioles player Hyun Soo Kim, teammate Adam Jones said he and Mr. Kim were the targets of racial slurs.
Mayor John Tory called the perpetrator a “loon ball” and the Toronto Sun newspaper announced a $1,000 reward for anyone who could identify him.
After the man’s photo was released on Wednesday evening, it dominated discussion on social media. Amateur Internet sleuths dissected videos and photographs, with some speculating that a woman had thrown the object onto the field. Others noted a photo of the apparent suspect drinking from a plastic cup around the time of the incident while another picture showed that he had later left his seat. Still others concluded police made the right call.
It didn’t take long for the man in the Blue Jays shirt to be identified as Mr. Pagan, a sports copy editor at Postmedia in Hamilton. Mr. Pagan said he has retained a lawyer.
“I was drinking out of a cup,” he told Postmedia. “I’d love to tell you what happened and my story … but I can’t say anything.”
Postmedia, whose properties include the Toronto Sun, is conducting an internal investigation, but has “reached no conclusions at this time,” according to spokeswoman Phyllise Gelfand.
Toronto Police said they are confident in their identification of the suspect, noting that investigators painstakingly reviewed video footage with Rogers Centre staff.
“Given this whole circumstance and how big this story is and how big it’s become, they’ve gone through it with great detail. So for us to be speaking with confidence that we believe that it is the right person, I know that all those steps would have been taken,” said Constable Allyson Douglas-Cook, a police spokeswoman.
Investigators decide to release photos of suspects on a case-by-case basis and felt it was “necessary” in this instance, she said.
“It’s obviously behaviour that we want to discourage. We’re very fortunate that no one was hurt by this,” she said.
Lawyer Julian Falconer, who specializes in police accountability cases, said officers are entitled to publicize photos of suspects as part of their investigations as long as they have reasonable grounds.
“The police, within the bounds of good faith, non-abuse of power scenarios, are supposed to be free to do their jobs and that includes enlisting the public in the investigation of crime,” he said.
Mr. Pagan’s lawyer, Frank Genesee, did not return messages on Thursday.
Blue Jays officials are reviewing alcohol sales policies and general security measures and may enact changes for future games, said spokesman Sebastian Gatica.
“We’re still discussing some options but we’re not prepared to announce what measures we’re going to be taking just yet in advance of Sunday’s game,” which is the next one that will be held in Toronto, he said.
Last year, a man was arrested after an unruly Rogers Centre crowd hurled beer cans and other objects onto the field when a controversial call went against the Blue Jays during the last game of the American League Division Series against the Texas Rangers. The man was charged with mischief after a baby in the front row was hit by spray from a tossed beer can.Report Typo/Error
In the top photo of a three-photo combination, the man at centre, looking straight ahead and down, has been identified by police as the suspect in an incident that saw a spectator throw a beer can on the field during the seventh inning of the American League wild-card game between Baltimore and Toronto on Tuesday, Oct.4, 2016. The middle photo, taken five seconds after the first photo, shows the same man holding a drink to his mouth. The bottom photo, taken 46 seconds after the middle picture, shows the area where the man had been. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn