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Man doesn't remember smashing windows in post-game Vancouver riot: court

VANCOUVER - A man in his mid-20s wearing a green hockey T-shirt paces outside an electronics store in downtown Vancouver, pumping his arms in the air and smiling broadly at a thick crowd of whooping onlookers.
Rioters break the front doors of a Sears department store on Granville Street during the riot following game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup final in downtown Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday, June 15, 2011. The first trial involving the Stanley Cup riot in Vancouver has heard a 26-year-old man doesn't remember smashing windows during the melee. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Howe

VANCOUVER - A man in his mid-20s wearing a green hockey T-shirt paces outside an electronics store in downtown Vancouver, pumping his arms in the air and smiling broadly at a thick crowd of whooping onlookers.

He shrugs at the crowd as if asking them what to do, and then picks up an orange-striped street barricade strewn on the ground before him.

Suddenly, another young man in a hooded sweatshirt runs past him and jump-kicks the window, sending a full pane of glass splintering.

The T-shirted man follows the act by tossing the wooden plank, but it's a weak throw that drops it to the ground. He hoists it back up in two hands, proceeding to shove it repeatedly through the hole while looking backwards at the cheering crowd with a wide grin.

A white poster with a multi-coloured parrot flutters to the ground as the man is quickly swallowed up by the crowd.

The entire episode plays out on a video submitted to police in the aftermath of the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup riots.

Spencer Kirkwood, 26, acknowledges he was at the riot and doesn't deny he appeared in the video smashing the window.

But he says he has no memory of the act or joining the mob scene at all, a court heard Monday at the first trial for the hundreds of people charged in the melee after the Vancouver Canucks lost the Stanley Cup.

The Vancouver man pleaded not guilty to charges that brought him before a B.C. provincial court judge, unlike 110 others so far who have admitted guilt, many of them already sentenced for their crimes on June 15, 2011.

A Crown lawyer told court that Kirkwood doesn't dispute he was at the riot or that he appeared in the footage, but that he later gave a police statement describing a huge gap in his memory of what happened that night.

Kirkwood drank beer and other alcohol at a friend's home and emerged after the game to see smoke rising from the downtown core, court heard.

He remembers commenting on the riot.

"The next day he woke up and didn't recall anything else," said Crown lawyer Patti Tomasson.

Kirkwood was sporting a green T-shirt with a white hockey stick logo and jeans when he helped break windows at a Telus store, at a cost of $10,337 to replace, said Tomasson, reading from an agreed statement of facts.

Two days later, Kirkwood phoned 911 after receiving a threatening phone call from an anonymous man who had apparently spotted him in video that had been posted online.

"He was scared," Tomasson said.

The next day Kirkwood went to police to give a statement.

Kirkwood was charged in late November 2011 with participating in a riot and mischief.

In May 2012, he was pulled over in the wee hours of the morning by a police officer for allegedly running a red light. He told the officer he hadn't been drinking, the Crown said, but two tests at the station found alcohol in his blood.

He was arrested and charged with breach of bail.

"That must be from the riot, my all of 45-second involvement," Kirkwood apparently told the officer, she said.

Tomasson called the videographer of the footage to the stand, a 28-year-old comedian and municipal worker who said he went downtown that night specifically to film the riot in the hopes of helping police.

The Crown showed clips from his footage, which freeze frames and then circles certain individuals Greg Potocky believed were involved in criminal acts.

How did the man in the green T-shirt respond to the crowd, Tomasson asked the witness.

"He seemed to enjoy it quite a bit," Potocky said. "When they were cheering him on he raised his arms in celebration."

Potocky said that within minutes of posting his footage the day after the riot, someone had identified Kirkwood and sent him more information via Facebook. He said both the accused and an apparent mutual friend requested he remove the clips, but he refused.

Potocky handed his footage over to the police.

Kirkwood's lawyer, Jonathan Waddington, did not cross-examine the witness. He later reminded reporters his client had already agreed he was in the video.

Earlier, the Crown called a senior Vancouver police officer to testify, and Kirkwood appeared to listen attentively as the "public order co-ordinator" spent more than an hour setting the scene.

Staff Sgt. Lee Patterson described the rising tension in the boisterous crowd of mostly young, drunk men involved in what turned into "pandemonium."

"They had become a mob," he told court. "There were people with hatred in their eyes."

Patterson did not specifically describe any interaction with Kirkwood, but was asked how the crowd reacted when windows were broken.

"It gives a shot of excitement to the crowd, a trophy for achievement."

Waddington would not say whether his client, dressed in a suit and striped tie, would appear as a witness later in the trial.

"A number of matters were admitted," he said outside court. "We admit riot, a number of matters aren't controversial. But he's entitled to have this matter tested and he's presumed innocent."

Thousands of people rocked the city's downtown after the Canucks lost the Stanley Cup to the Boston Bruins in Game 7 in 2011.

Cars were flipped and set ablaze, stores were looted and dozens of fights broke out. Police used tear gas and riot gear to disperse the crowds about five hours after the brawl began.

Police have recommended charges against 315 suspected rioters, and the Crown has so far charged 173 people in the massive police investigation that includes thousands of hours of video evidence.