09/26/2012 05:17 EDT | Updated 11/26/2012 05:12 EST

Investigators travel the country to arrest No. 1 suspect in Vancouver riot

VANCOUVER - The No. 1 suspect in last year's Stanley Cup riot has for months existed as a nameless face on a police wanted poster, a young man in a blue Vancouver Canucks jersey placed on a photo grid of more than 100 people suspected of burning cars, looting stores and in some cases assaulting others.

Suspect IRIT-00001, as he's known to investigators, is one of 15 people suspected of beating a Good Samaritan who was attempting to stop rioters from smashing the windows of the Bay department store and stealing merchandise from inside.

IRIT-00001 was the only one of those suspects police had yet to track down — until this week, when investigators who spent months following his movements out of B.C. and across three provinces made an arrest in Saskatchewan.

Police announced Wednesday they had arrested Jonathan Stephen Mahoney, 24, a day earlier in Lanigan, Sask., a small community of about 1,200 people east of Saskatoon.

Mahoney, originally from Conception Bay, N.L., has been charged with participating in a riot, assault, assault with a weapon and mischief, said Insp. Laurence Rankin. Two officers travelled to Saskatchewan to make the arrest and were expected to return with Mahoney on Wednesday afternoon, said Rankin.

"He was certainly aware of what's going on and we extended the opportunity to meet with him, and he chose not to," said Rankin.

"I don't want to speculate any more other than to say that he did move a lot, and it leaves one to wonder if it was because he didn't want to be tracked down."

Mahoney is charged in the assault of Robert MacKay, who was swarmed, beaten and pepper sprayed on June 15, 2011, as violence and lawlessness swept across several blocks of downtown Vancouver in the hours after the Canucks lost Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final.

Police have recommended charges against all 15 suspects in the MacKay beating; of those, charges have so far been approved against 11 adults and two youth.

Mahoney was working in Vancouver at the time of the riot, but later moved to Manitoba, his hometown of Conception Bay, N.L., and finally to Lanigan, Sask., where he was working at a potash mine, said Rankin.

Rankin said he had a chance to speak with MacKay and tell him the news.

"He's very happy to see that we've continued to see it through," said Rankin.

"Like a lot of the victims, not only the ones that were assaulted but victims of property crime, they were very relieved that we're continuing the investigation. It's been a year and a half, it's been a long haul, but we're continuing to do so because we haven't forgotten or lost sight of the victims in this."

Rankin also announced police were recommending charges against an additional 50 people. That brings the total number of accused rioters to 275, though Crown counsel has so far only approved charges against 156 of them, according to statistics provided by the Vancouver police.

Earlier this year, police indicated the investigation was scaling back due to a decrease in tips from the public. Currently, there are 22 investigators working on the file, said Rankin.

But Rankin said additional charges could still come. He said there were still a number of strong suspects, including some who may have been involved in serious assaults, and he urged the public once again to look at photos collected on the police department's website to see whether they recognize anyone.

"We're still receiving information and we still have viable suspects that we're working on, so in that sense we're still moving ahead," he said.

As of this week, 73 rioters have pleaded guilty and 14 of them have been sentenced, according to the province's criminal justice branch. Those sentences range from conditional sentences that don't include jail time to jail terms of more than a year.

The riot caused nearly $4 million in damage over several blocks of downtown Vancouver. Rioters smashed windows, set cars on fire and looted stores for hours until police in riot gear and on horseback were able to bring the crowd under control.