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Lam stayed low, moving and shooting as if his head were on a swivel. He needed to stay alert. When he looked up, he sensed a change in the crowd.
At the end of the street the police were massing, forming what they call a "running line." It's a technique borrowed, like most riot dispersion techniques, from the ancient Romans. Shoulder to shoulder, police in full riot gear brandishing shields and batons ran for 50 yards as one. If they needed to move the crowd in a certain direction, the police angled the line, like a squeegee across a wet windshield. Behind followed a tactical unit armed with rubber bullets and gas. It was remarkably effective; the crowd, no matter how ornery, reacted instinctively and sprinted away from the oncoming police. To Lam it looked like the running of the bulls.
Lam had moved ahead of the police line so he could turn and shoot back at the scene. Now that they were advancing upon him, he decided he was no hero. He ran once, then again, and was eventually pushed onto Seymour Street, where he finally stopped outside the Blenz Coffee Shop, between Georgia and Robson.
When he turned to survey the scene, he saw them.
Alex Thomas turned to run, but when the police charged she fell. Before Jones could pick her up, the line was on top of them, hovering, batons raised. "Please stop!" Thomas yelled while Jones covered her and cops pressed them down with their shields. After a few long seconds the officers moved on, leaving the street—which seconds earlier had been aswarm with hundreds of people—empty except for Thomas and Jones. She lay on her back, crying, hysterical. He bent over her, trying to comfort her. Then, in a moment of tenderness, he kissed her.
Thirty yards away, Lam saw a photo: a couple alone in the street, hurt. His instinct was to frame them up, with a riot officer in the foreground, and start firing.
Without his flash, Lam had to work with the available light, in this case a fluorescent haze from a nearby parking garage and the orange glow of fires. This forced him to use a lower shutter speed—1/40th of a second—which with his 200mm focal length meant even the slightest movement would blur the photo. Using an ISO of 6400 and an aperture of f2.8, he pressed the shutter, getting off two shots with the cop in the foreground and four more of the couple alone before a woman ran in to help. The moment was gone. It was 10:22.
Lam didn't linger. Glancing at the screen on the back of his camera, he saw that the girl's legs were in focus. Good enough. He had to keep moving. Five minutes later he got a call from Michael Heiman, the Getty photo editor. Time to come back.
Not far away, Evans lay on the asphalt, his Canucks jersey now grimy and bloody, his hands cuffed behind his back. He couldn't believe it: They were arresting the wrong guy. So far he'd done nothing but comply with police orders. When they had yelled for him to drop the knife, he had. When they told him to let go of the kid, he did. His friends had argued on his behalf (He's innocent!) to no avail. Now a police van pulled up, and Evans was loaded in, along with the kid with the knife, both headed for a holding cell with dozens of looters and rioters. On a night when an estimated 15,000 criminal acts took place, Evans was one of the 150 or so people who were arrested.
Back at the arena Heiman, the Getty editor, had finished going through more than 9,000 pictures of game action and celebration and sending his selections out on the wire. Now he was flipping through riot shots—the frames becoming a blur of flames and looters and police. Heiman had one more memory card to look at: Lam's. The editor went through the photos quickly, thinking about the beer he'd pour himself when the night was over. As he got to the final 10 frames, though, Heiman was stopped cold by what he saw: a woman on the ground in the middle of the street, a man comforting her. Even to Heiman's overworked eyes, the image was eerie and beautiful. Then he looked closer: The guy was kissing her! He did a quick crop, adjusted the contrast, wrote a caption—"Couple kiss in the street amidst the riot"—and sent it out on the wire.