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High-def video helping ID London Drugs rioters

One of the photos of a riot suspect at the downtown Vancouver London Drugs that was posted on the Vancouver Police website.  -
One of the photos of a riot suspect at the downtown Vancouver London Drugs that was posted on the Vancouver Police website.
— image credit:

More than 300 people stormed a Downtown Vancouver London Drugs store during the Stanley Cup riot on June 15, but Wynne Powell, president and CEO of the Richmond-headquartered retail chain, said state-of-the-art high definition cameras has helped identify many of those responsible.

The videos can read writing on a cigarette package, Powell said, and police have been ecstatic at the quality of the images.

While Powell believes it’s important for the justice system to hold these people accountable, he’s more concerned with the impact the riot had on his employees, many of whom were traumatized during the 45-minute ordeal.

“Our staff felt terrorized,” Powell said of his 30 staff who hid when the rioters smashed their way into the store.

Though the staff were safe at the side of eight or nine security staff, it was still traumatic to see and hear as the store’s security-glass and steel grill defenses were slowly battered down over the course of a couple of hours, and a flood of people began stripping the store of $424,000 in stock.

“We care about our staff. We’re a large family company,” he said, adding that some of the store’s younger female staff were affected on an emotional level with trauma by what occurred.

“It was like a Boxing Day sale without a cash register,” Powell told The Review.

This was not an emotional, casual moment, Powell said. And what these people were doing wasn’t rioting, but stealing.

They honed in on the most expensive merchandise, from Nikon cameras to Apple computers to high-end cosmetics.

Thus far, London Drugs has been contacted by one lawyer, seeking to arrange the return of $600 worth of merchandise.

Among those accused of stealing from London Drugs is Sophie Laboissonierre, 20, of Richmond.

“What we need as a society, is...this (justice) system to prove to these people...that there’s a consequence to it. It’s got to be a future deterrent, from a society perspective.

Hopefully the judicial system will drive that message home.”

The rioters and thieves caused $250,000 in damage to the store, but Powell said thanks to an emergency plan set in place to deal with a crisis such as an earthquake, the store was able to  open at 9:30 a.m.

Dozens and dozens of managers and employees from London Drugs stores around the Lower Mainland volunteered their time to help sweep out the store into a dump truck, with surplus light fixtures and inventory destined for other stores redirected to the Downtown Vancouver location at Granville and Georgia, which was at the epicentre of the rioting.

“Every person on duty that night showed up for work the next day,” Powell said. “As the CEO, I couldn’t be prouder.”

Other Lower Mainlanders who were upset by the TV images of the riots, convened in Downtown Vancouver to offer any help.

The shattered windows were quickly replaced, and the store was able to open by 9:30 a.m.

And some people spent their money at the store, in hopes of somehow mitigating the riot’s impact.

For all the criticism the Vancouver Police Department has received regarding their preparations and response to the riot, Powell said he’ll be eternally grateful that an entire group of officers went into his store and escorted his staff to safety.

 

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