Most of the first batch of 60 suspects facing charges for their involvement in the June 15 Stanley Cup riot are from Metro Vancouver suburbs, with more than a third of them hailing from Surrey.
Vancouver Police Department Chief Jim Chu said 163 charges are being recommended against 60 people.
Twenty-one alleged rioters are from Surrey, while 12 are from Vancouver, nine are from Burnaby and four are from Maple Ridge.
Two each are from Abbotsford and Delta, while one each is from Richmond, Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, Langley, New Westminster, North Vancouver, Victoria, Courtenay, West Kelowna and Seattle.
Rioters torched police cars and other vehicles and looted stores in downtown Vancouver after the Boston Bruins beat the Vancouver Canucks in Game 7 of the Cup final.
“The people who rampaged that night must be held accountable for their actions,” Chu said, calling it the “largest crime spree in the history of B.C.”
Onlookers shot video and photos on cellphones and posted them on social media, fueling what has become a massive crowd-sourced police investigation.
The VPD has asked Crown counsel to charge all 60 initial suspects with participating in a riot, while many also face charges including mischief, assault or break and enter.
“This is just the beginning as we expect to announce more arrests in the weeks and months ahead,” Chu said.
Several hundred people could ultimately be prosecuted, he said.
The VPD has been under fire in recent months because no suspects had yet been charged, despite the fact dozens of them had come forward and confessed.
Chu defended the VPD decision not to “rush cases to court” and instead conduct a “thorough” investigation.
“We believe the community supports the independence of the police and our professional judgement to conduct thorough investigations, not cut corners in order to satisfy the vocal criticisms of a few,” he said.
Chu said one 21-year-old Vancouver Island rioter who confessed after being outed on Facebook would have been charged only for one count of mischief involving a single car had police moved quickly.
But he said the Indianapolis lab analyzing thousands of hours of video has since determined the man damaged six vehicles and broke into three stores that night, resulting in multiple charges.
A database at the lab is able to quickly scan a suspect against 15,000 identified criminal acts recorded on video.
A Burnaby man with a prior record was caught because of blood DNA he left at the scene.
Chu said the database then found video of the suspect punching someone in the back of the head and trying to hide his face as he looted a store. The man faces charges of assault causing bodily harm, break and enter, disguise with intent to commit an offence and participating in a riot.
He said the lab has been invaluable, even helping identify rioters who masked up.
Others arrested include:
– A drunk 21-year-old Delta man with no criminal record who police say joined the mayhem, smashing the tail lights and window of a parked truck before helping set it on fire.
– A 23-year-old Surrey woman who can be seen on video using a cigarette lighter to set fire to a police care and then smashing it several times with a piece of wood.
She has no record but faces charges of participating in a riot, mischief and arson.
– A 52-year-old Port Coquitlam man caught on video looting a store. He’s the oldest suspect facing charges so far and has a long criminal record for theft, break and enter and sex offences.
The 50 men arrested range in age from 16 to 52, while 10 women facing charges are 16 to 22.
The average age of the suspects is 21.
Prosecutors must still approve charges.
Crown prosecutor Neil McKenzie told reporters some suspects could be charged and appear in court by December.
The VPD has posted dozens of images of suspected rioters to its riot website and has asked for public help in identifying them.
Attorney General Shirley Bond said she’s confident the province’s team of five prosecutors assigned to the case is capable of handling the flow of charge requests from police.
“We have senior litigators who are ready to do their work,” she said.
“This is an extensive number of charges that potentially will be laid.”
Bond cautioned they are just allegations so far.