Almost a year after rioters rampaged through downtown Vancouver following the Canucks' Stanley Cup loss, one police officer who was seriously injured in the mayhem says things would be different if it happened again.
Last June 15, Vancouver police Const. Erik Kerasiotis was in charge of logistics for the riot squad. That night, he says the happy high-fiving crowd of the previous nights was gone, replaced by a thousands of younger, rowdier spectators fuelled by alcohol.
As soon as the game wound down, Kerasiotis says it was like a switch flipped and everything went sideways. Fires started to erupt. Cars were flipped over and store windows were smashed.
And as the riot squad tried to push people out of the city, the crowd turned on police.
"We had guys throwing stuff at us from the apartment buildings. The guys in the crowd would come up and start taunting us, trying to goad us into fights," recalls Kerasiotis.
When police lost control of the crowd, a decision was made to use tear gas. Kerasiotis tried to pull families through the police line and out of the way, but many wanted to stick around and watch.
"I think in Vancouver, it was such an anomaly, everybody wanted to be part of it, take pictures to say I was there. It put so many of them in danger as well as making our jobs more difficult because we couldn't just dig into a crowd to take an instigator out here or there without injuring anybody. So we were sort of hamstrung a bit that way."
Hit by a rock
During the ensuing violence Kerasiotis was hit in the neck by a baseball sized rock, leaving him with a concussion.
He was off work for three weeks and lived with a constant headache for six months. But it could have been much worse, he maintains.
"If I had turned a little this way, I would have caught it in the throat and it probably would have killed me."
No one was ever charged for the attack, but Kerasiotis isn't bitter and says he still loves his job.
"I'd like to think the next time, if something like this happens again, more people will stand up and say this is wrong and deal with it."
So far charges have been approved against 98 individuals, and police have recommended charges against another more than 100 other people in connection with the riot. A total of 13 people have pleaded guilty to charges so far.
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