Abbotsford Police seek seven heroic citizens

Abbotsford Police Const Steve Kern wants to personally thank seven people who came to his aide during the Stanley Cup riots in Vancouver. - John Van Putten Photo
Abbotsford Police Const Steve Kern wants to personally thank seven people who came to his aide during the Stanley Cup riots in Vancouver.
— image credit: John Van Putten Photo

An Abbotsford Police officer who was alone and facing a menacing crowd during Vancouver's Stanley Cup riot wants to meet and personally thank the members of the public who put themselves in harm's way to assist him.

Const. Steve Kern also wants to see recognition for the off-duty medical personnel who put their skills to work during the riot.

The Abbotsford Police Department is asking the seven "heroic citizens" who were associated with Kern that night to come forward.

Kern was part of the Lower Mainland Tactical Troop on June 15, working crowd control. He was part of a four-person team of police officers from detachments across the region, stationed at Granville and Robson Streets. They were wearing traffic control vests, and in meet-and-greet mode.

"At the beginning of the evening, and in previous games, people were really friendly, high-fiving, wanting to get pictures taken with you and talk about the hockey games," said Kern.

By the end of the second period, with the Vancouver Canucks on their way to a 4-0 loss to the Boston Bruins, the mood of the crowd was already surly. The medical member of their team was summoned away, leaving three officers to control the busy corridor.

The officers heard of a medical emergency on Robson Street. They arrived on the scene to find a man unconscious, bleeding from an obvious head injury. An off-duty doctor and nurse were tending to him. However, they found it difficult to do their work, because members of the crowd were taking pictures and video of the victim, bumping and jostling them.

"People were sticking cameras right in their faces and snapping pictures," said Kern. "We needed to take control of that situation and give them the space they needed."

The trio of police officers did that, and two more off-duty nurses arrived on scene to assist.

Just as the group began making progress in keeping people clear of the injured man, initiating basic medical care, another victim was reported further ahead. That person had suffered serious stab wounds.

Two police officers moved through the mob to the second victim, leaving Kern to support the doctor and nurses.

The crowd because increasingly aggressive, making anti-police comments. When police used tear gas to start clearing Granville, more increasingly agitated people moved toward Kern and the group.

"They were very threatening," said Kern. "They were upset they had been tear gassed, and they were blaming me for it."

Kern was coping with tear gassing effects himself, which he described as "moderate."

"I've experienced it before," said the 19-year veteran, "so I'm able to work through it."

At the moment when violence against the police officer seemed inevitable, three people stepped out and formed a wall in front of Const. Kern, the doctor, the nurses and the unconscious man. The trio was comprised of a husband and wife and a stocky, muscular man. The three physically and verbally made it clear to the aggressors that they would not be allowing anyone in the rescue team to be attacked or interfered with.

"That made all the difference in breaking the tension," said Kern.

The couple eventually left to bring more police officers to the location, so the unconscious patient could be extracted safely.

"As a result of the collective actions of these seven heroic citizens, none of the members of the rescue group were injured, and the unconscious man was eventually taken to hospital," said an APD press release.

"It's incredible when you see civilians get involved," said Kern.

Rioters are being identified in the media, and they apologize, saying that they got caught up in the moment and did the wrong thing,

"These people got caught up in the moment and did the right thing," Kern said.

That night is a stain on the memory for the many despicable things people did – fighting, looting and destroying cars and stores. But Kern will look at it differently.

"I will take away from it that, when things looked bleakest, people helped," said Kern.

"I would like to see them come forward and get recognition for what they did for me and the injured man. I would love to meet these people, and give them my own thank-you."

They can contact Const. Ian MacDonald at 604-864-4721.

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