Doug Leight knew it was a bad idea – sprinting towards a string of cops during the Vancouver Stanley Cup riot.
He had just heard a “ting ting” on the pavement before a big white cloud of smoke filled the street. It was tear gas.
“I could taste it before I could smell it, and when I did smell it, it was rancid,” said Leight.
Despite the burning sensation, he kept his eyes open and pulled his shirt over his mouth to help him breathe.
Through the haze he could see people running in the opposite direction.
“This is really stupid – the officers won’t know I’m on their side,” thought Leight.
He finally got to the officers, who pushed him down. He got up again and was shoved to the ground.
“Your member …” he choked out.
“Your member, your officer needs help. He’s down the street alone. He sent me up here to get you.”
A group of about three or four officers followed 27-year-old Leight down the street to Abbotsford Police Const. Steve Kern, who was trying to fend off rioters while a group of off-duty nurses and a doctor from Peace Arch Hospital tended to a bleeding, unconscious man.
It’s a sight that Leight and his girlfriend Danelle Buckberry, 30, came across after watching the game at the downtown live site on June 15.
Even though they saw fans leaving in the second period, Leight and Buckberry hung around to watch the game’s end. Leight even tried starting the chant “We got next year,” but it never caught on.
After the game, they wandered the streets in search of a place to eat.
That’s when they came across a woman shouting at the crowd, trying to push them back from something.
Leight looked down and saw the bleeding, unconscious man, with a few people huddled around him, and Kern trying to restrain the crowd.
It was instinct for Leight and Buckberry to join in.
“It was a scary situation,” said Leight. “I had so much adrenaline.”
Amongst the shoving, spitting and emotion, the faces in the crowd started blending together.
A muscular guy jumped in to help, and soon they were a team.
The crowd was divided, with some backing up and others trying to squeeze through to take a photo or video.
Eventually Kern turned to Leight and asked him to get help – his other officers had left him to tend to a stabbing down the block.
That’s when Leight was tear gassed.
Buckberry, who is trained in emergency first aid, stayed behind to help the nurses and hold back the crowds.
She asked a nearby shop owner for a tablecloth to cover the unconscious man, to prevent him from shaking if he went into shock.
The whole incident lasted about an hour and a half.
Following Leight’s return, it was time to leave. There was tear gas pouring in from two ends, a fire at another and a riot squad closing in.
Kern thanked the couple that night, and did so again in a follow-up conversation they recently had.
“But I thanked him,” said Leight. “People need to know that the police did all they could that night to protect the city.”
Looking back on the event, Leight compares it to a movie.
“You know that scene in the Titanic, where the guys are playing music to the very end.. it kind of felt like that.”
The Abbotsford Police Department had asked the seven “heroic citizens” who were associated with Kern that night to come forward. One individual1 has yet to be identified.