The Vancouver Police Department has recommended charges against 50 more people accused of participating in last year's Stanley Cup riot, and arrested a man the investigation team called its No. 1 target.
The department held a news conference at its Cambie Street headquarters Wednesday to update its investigation into the city's second hockey riot in 17 years. Inspector Laurence Rankin, the riot investigation team's commander, said charges have been laid against a 24-year-old Newfoundland man who was allegedly involved in a 15-person assault on Robert Mackay. Mr. Mackay had tried to prevent rioters from entering The Bay.
Jonathan Stephen Mahoney is charged with participating in a riot, assault, assault with a weapon, and two counts of mischief.
Insp. Rankin said Mr. Mahoney was identified as the team's top target in the days after the riot. However, Mr. Mahoney – who had been working in construction in the Lower Mainland – had already left the province. He was tracked to Manitoba, then Newfoundland, and eventually Lanigan, Sask.
He was arrested in Saskatchewan on Tuesday, where he had been working in a potash mine, Insp. Rankin said.
The riot investigation team commander said he could not speculate whether Mr. Mahoney had been actively fleeing police. "He did move a lot, and it leads one to wonder if it was because he didn't want to be tracked down," he said.
Insp. Rankin said all 15 people allegedly involved in the assault on Mr. Mackay have been arrested. Mr. Mackay – who was hailed as a hero after video of him trying to stop the rioters was uploaded to YouTube – has praised the police for their investigation and called for justice.
Insp. Rankin said Mr. Mackay was pleased when he learned of the most recent arrest.
In British Columbia, police must forward their charge assessments to the Crown for approval; the Crown then lays the charges. So far, charges have been approved against 156 people accused of participating in the riot, which broke out after the Vancouver Canucks lost Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final to the Boston Bruins. Seventy-three have entered guilty pleas and 13 have been sentenced.
Among the people against whom charges were recently recommended is a 22-year-old who was recognized by two Vancouver police officers he went to high school with, and a 23-year-old who was recognized by an officer who had stopped him one week before the riot for urinating in public.
In all, the department has recommended charges against 275 people accused of participating in the riot, which left more than $3-million in damages.
The investigation team was initially composed of 50 to 70 people, including officers, civilian support staff and others. It began winding down at the end of June and now has 22 members.
Inspector Les Yeo, the team's previous leader, said last October that he expected 500 to 700 people to be charged. He later said he misspoke, and in April said he expected charges to be recommended against 300 people by the time the riot investigation team was disbanded.
When asked whether Wednesday's batch of recommendations – the first since June – would be the last, Insp. Rankin said no. He said the team would continue to investigate and did not offer any hints on when it would disband.
"We're at 275 that we've recommended now. We're going to continue on," he said, asking the public to send in more tips.
Vancouver police were much criticized for the pace of their investigation after the riot. It was 41/4 months before the first batch of recommendations was sent to the Crown.