Vigilante Justice Comes to the Web

Before the night of June 15, Nathan Kotylak was known as a star high school athlete from a Vancouver, B.C. suburb. He was a 17-year-old Olympic hopeful on the Canadian junior men’s water polo team.

But that day the Boston Bruins clinched hockey’s Stanley Cup in game seven over the Vancouver Canucks, and upset fans rioted on the streets of Vancouver.

Kotylak was identified in a Web photo as one of the rioters and in the backlash that ensued he and his family received threats and were harassed to the point they had to flee their Maple Ridge home.

Welcome to vigilante justice, social-media style.

A number of websites popped up after the riot encouraging crowdsourcing viewers to identify participants in photos and videos, not only so they could be reported to police, but so they could be publicly shamed, harassed and humiliated.

The sites include photos and videos of people breaking windows, looting luxury stores and, in Kotylak’s case, trying but apparently failing to set a police car on fire. Visitors to the sites are urged to name names, post phone numbers and addresses, and in some instances, they make threats or use racist or homophobic language about those identified.

Kotylak’s name, address, cell phone number and his father’s name and office number were posted on various sites, including Facebook.

He and his family received threatening and harassing phone calls and messages. He was suspended from the national water polo team and missed his high school graduation ceremonies after the family went into hiding. His father, a surgeon, was forced to temporarily close his medical office.

All before Kotylak was charged with a crime in juvenile court.

In this country, it is the custom of the news media to withhold the identity of minors involved in all but the most serious crimes. In Canada, the Youth Criminal Justice Act makes it flat-out illegal for the media to identify a minor suspected of a crime.

Kotylak waived his right not to be identified, already broken a thousand times on the Web, so he could issue a public apology, both in print and video. In response, he was mocked online.

A blog devoted to publicly shaming each rioter created a post devoted to Kotylak’s crime that drew more than 800 comments. The blog, “publicshamingeternus,” is maintained by “Captain Vancouver,” who otherwise believes it’s his right not to be identified.

Kotylak, who has a scholarship to the University of Calgary, said that before June 15, the results of a Google search on his name would yield results about his awards and honors.

Google him now and there are pages upon pages of search results about his part in the riot. They include Facebook pages titled, “Nathan Kotylak go to jail, Do not Pass Go” and “100,000 strong to ban Nathan Kotylak from the Canada Olympic team.

We may never know when and if Kotylak is charged with a crime or convicted, as Canadian law will continue to protect his identity as a minor.

No matter, says his attorney, Bart Findlay. Kotylak already has been judged in the court of Facebook.

“The mob mentality that took place at the riots is now happening on social media,” Findlay told The Vancouver Sun. “The family is very disturbed … they have concerns for their safety.”



  • AmericanPatriot82?

    What possesses police to have the attitude that vigilante justice is wrong no matter what?
    What’s the point in someone who has means to defend themself endangering their own lives and possibly the lives of others in the case where there are others present, sitting around with their thumb up their ar$e waiting half an hour or more for the police to get to the scene?

    If people were able to take the law into their own hands several people might still be alive today instead of waiting around for police to come.
    AR, so if the person who is a direct victim is unable to defend themselve, you’re still against it? What’s wrong with picking up the ball when police drop it?
    AR, so if the person who is a direct victim is unable to defend themselve, you’re still against it? What’s wrong with doing a better job than the police?

    Oh yeah, then they’d be out of a job.

  • Eric

    I don’t think its wrong. Its perfectly fine as long as you follow the laws when doling out your self enforced justice.

    The problem comes in when the "citizen" goes too far. Now I am forced by law to enforce the law and put a descent person, with good intentions in jail. That sucks.

    Another issue that comes up is the danger. I don’t want my good people getting hurt because they get in over their heads.

    I can only turn a blind a eye so far.

    I can’t roll on scene and let you get away with boot stomping a guy into the curb for stealing your car stereo. I can’t do it, why should untrained citizens?
    References :
    CA cop

  • Ryan's mom

    You DO have the right to defend yourself. You can’t just shoot someone because they flip you off on the freeway. There are stupid people everywhere that do things like this but they don’t deserve to have their heads blown off or the crap kicked out of them. If someone is pulling a knife on you and you truly believe that they are going to kill you if you don’t do something, you can use deadly force to get them to stop. If someone is breaking into your home, you have the right to stop them, BUT you cannot shoot them or kill them if they are OUTSIDE your house. They have to be INSIDE.
    References :

  • ARCop

    The law allows you to protect yourself to the same standard as anyone. You stop the threat, if you go beyond that, then you can be charged. Vigilantes go out and try to enforce laws, but are not direct victims to those crimes. We don’t make the laws that prevent vigilantes we just enforce the laws they break.

    I agree that if someone can’t help themselves and you can, I think you should to the extent of stopping the threat. Vigilantes patrol the streets looking for justice, I don’t agree with that. I would like to think that we don’t drop the ball, but when you have one officer for every 2000 citizens, you can get bogged down, be a good witness.
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  • cowboydoc

    This is not "vigilante justice" but self defense. That’s the deference. When a State like Illinois can release 86 prisoners, I believe it was, some on death row, due to wrongful witnesses and DNA that proved they were innocent, then how can you say Vigilante justice is right, what chance is there you might have been wrong after you’ve pulled the trigger or, do you mysteriously have a way to call the bullet back after you’ve fired it.

    I do believe in self defense and have an over and under behind my bedroom door and a .38 special in the drawer, I am very good, I shot on the Army team and always scored a 98. I also was in ‘Nam for two tours and was wounded twice, was an Airborne Ranger so, I guess I can say, I’ve been there but, I do not agree with Vigilante Justice, things go horrible wrong.
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  • docjohnson92

    in the state of FL and CO there are many laws allowing privet citizens to defent themselfs, others and their property with (upto and including) deadly force and allow concealed carry. States such as IL do not… Main reasons why i have moved.
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  • SGT Little Keefe

    Vigilante ism is always wrong. Taking vengeance is wrong, but protecting ones own is all right as long as the citizen knows when to stop. Citizens are not trained as cops are on how much is too much.
    References :

  • ha_mer

    Law enforcement is an occupation, not a game.
    It takes training.
    Amateurs who get the idea that they’re modern Sherlock Holmes’ are troublemakers even if they have good intentions.
    Example: You see a person kill another person so you kill that person. It turns out that the witnessed killer was mentally ill.
    Since when do we execute mentally ill people?
    Self defense when threatened is legal.
    Vigilantism isn’t and shouldn’t be.
    References :

  • arthur b

    Its because they favored certain people over others, if you called the police while in a bad area, they will take forever to get to the scene, but in a rich or upper middle class area, they will be there as soon as possible in most cases, the government does not respect the poor, that’s they way this country is.
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  • jumpingrightin

    What is wrong is your motive. You are looking for a fight, you are looking to be a hero, and you are going to get others hurt besides yourself. Better to improve your mind, get a library card, teach someone to read — be THAT kind of hero.
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  • Eddie

    It sounds to me that your "Question" is more of a statement.

    Vigilantes are a step away from lawlessness. Citizens have the right to protect themselves, but to take matters into your own hands would be ludicious.

    The police are trained in what they do. Despite what some of the ignorant say, the police do not routinely abuse people or violate their rights. On the whole people are treated decently.

    Now having been in the business for 20+ years I have evolved in my tactics and overall policing skills. I try to talk more than use action. I guess that’s a sign of getting old, but nonetheless it’s a skill I use.

    Ask yourself, if you were wronged, would you have the ability to shrug it off and do what was right for society? Forget that you were wronged, but could you do what was necessary to put your hands on someone, arrest them, and take them to jail knowing that they would be out in a few hours?

    This is the life we have being law enforcement officers. It’s a tough job, but I think most of us got into the job for the right reasons.

    As for people dying as a result of their lack of -insert reason here- . Well you are grossly misinformed that as a citizen you have to stand by to watch someone get away with murder. You, like every other citizen has the right to protect life and property like we do. We just happen to carry all the stuff with us. But be forewarned that this is not a license to go out and become Judge Dredd.

    It would seem to me that using some common sense in situations could go a long way.
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  • Ding-Ding

    The use of deadly force is acceptable only in self defense of you and your family if deadly force is threatened. You can’t shoot a burglar as he runs away.

    Also if something is going down, be aware undercover cops may be involved, especially if it is a weapons or drug bust.

    You can use yourself as a human shield if someone is attempting to beat up another individual, but beware, you leave yourself wide open to lawsuit if the victim or the perpatrators are injured because of your actions. Sick society, huh!?! Not to mention the revenge his/her buddies will be after if their friend is caught or hurt.

    Your best bet is to let cooler heads prevail.
    References :

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