Stanley Cup Riot: The cleanup continues 0
The riot squad stands by a turned over police car during the Stanley Cup Riot June 15, 2011. (FILE PHOTO)
Just like many Lower Mainlanders, Vancouver Police Department Insp. Les Yeo was at home watching Game 7 of last year's Stanley Cup final.
When crowds began tearing through the downtown burning cars, looting stores and assaulting those caught in the mayhem, little did the 31-year police veteran know he would soon be commanding the biggest investigation of its kind in Canada.
Twelve months after the rampage, the Integrated Riot Investigation Team commander still receives video evidence from that June 15 night. Leading up to Friday's one-year anniversary, he still can't grasp why people would consciously commit crimes for the world to see.
"It's a case like none other," Yeo said, explaining at its peak 70 investigators gathered evidence, conducted interviews and reviewed 5,500 hours of video footage.
Today, 60 investigators remain on the case that's cost taxpayers about $2 million and millions more to businesses that suffered damage.
Yeo said the investigation, which was divided into three "clearly defined phases," is now in its final stage. After first gathering and then processing evidence, police are now focused on arrests, interviews and Crown reports.
But despite the criticism IRIT has faced for the investigation's pace - just two rioters, Ryan Dickinson and Emmanuel Alviar, both 20, have been sentenced - the team commander said he knows what it takes to secure a conviction in the Canadian court system.
Mountains of video and photographic evidence, detailed Crown reports, and extensive interviews with witnesses and suspects are all part of making the airtight cases IRIT has produced the past year.
"You can't be swayed by that public pressure," Yeo said, "You can listen to it, because you never want to ignore it, but you want to make sure you do what's right."
It may seem he prefers the tortoise's strategy to the hare's, but the commander has a list of accomplishments he's happy to share.
"Fifteen have been convicted, over 100 have been charged and over 200 we've recommended charges on," he said, adding police are preparing to recommend charges against at least 100 more people.
VPD Chief Jim Chu is expected Tuesday to detail some of those new charges.
Tasked with determining the speed, flow and direction of the case, IRIT's co-lead investigator, Insp. Laurence Rankin, has also faced his share of criticism.
"We're not compromising on the quality of the investigation, regardless of who or what pressure may be placed to bear on us," he said.
But because the case has been ongoing for a year, Rankin said everything is now more streamlined as investigators are "all speaking the same language" and anticipating any potential problems.
This has made it easier for IRIT to make the cases he's proudest of.
A year after a mob swarmed and beat Robert MacKay - the Good Samaritan who tried to stop looters from ravaging The Hudson's Bay Department Store - a smile comes over Rankin's face when he talks about progress in the case.
"We've identified, with the exception of one, every person who took part in some way, shape or form," he said, adding it's just a matter of time before police make the cases they've promised to the public.