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What we know about the deadly bank robbery in Saanich, B.C.

Police are still investigating an attempted robbery at a Bank of Montreal in Saanich, B.C., late Tuesday morning. 

On Thursday afternoon, they gave an update with a few more details, confirming when the first 911 call came in and the make of the suspects’ vehicle.

Two armed suspects were killed and six officers from the Greater Victoria Emergency Response Team (GVERT) were injured during an exchange of gunfire outside the bank on Tuesday.

Explosives were found in a nearby vehicle associated with the suspects and an RCMP explosive disposal unit brought in from Vancouver was able to safely destroy them at a local landfill on Wednesday.

Vancouver Island’s Integrated Major Crime Unit (VIIMCU) has taken over the investigation and the Independent Investigations Office — the oversight body which reviews all police actions that result in death or serious harm — is also looking into what happened.

On Thursday evening, both the Victoria and Saanich police departments launched a large-scale, five-hour search for two men in camouflage described as “suspicious”, who were originally reported to police just a block from the bank’s location in Saanich.

However, after the men were found in downtown Victoria several hours later, Victoria police said there was no weapon found, no risk to the public, and no link to the bank incident two days earlier.

Where and how did the incident start?

According to Saanich Chief Const. Dean Duthie, the first 911 call came in at 11:02 a.m. on Tuesday, June 28.

Minutes later, GVERT officers and members of the Victoria and Saanich Police departments responded to reports that two armed men had entered a bank on the 3600-block of Shelbourne Street in Saanich, B.C.

Videos recorded by bystanders show police running toward the building, guns drawn, some hiding behind vehicles and bushes as shots rang out. Several witnesses sheltering in place said they saw and heard dozens of gunshots in rapid succession as the suspects exchanged gunfire with police.

Police said the shooting started outside the bank, though it wasn’t immediately clear who shot first. The bank is in a largely residential neighbourhood of Saanich, about a kilometre west of the University of Victoria campus on southern Vancouver Island.

Chief Duthie said a GVERT team happened to be in the area on Tuesday “on an entirely separate and unrelated investigation,” and was able to immediately re-deploy to the bank.

What do we know about the suspects?

On Thursday afternoon, RCMP Cpl. Alex Bérubé said police are still working with the B.C. Coroners Service to positively identify the two male suspects.

“Once that is complete, our first priority will be to speak to the next of kin,” he said. “And we’ll be moving forward to determine more about them … their backgrounds, who they are, their histories, and how that might relate to what took place.

Bérubé said the suspects are believed to have been driving a white, four-door, 1992 Toyota Camry with two black racing stripes over the hood and the roof. Anyone who saw a car matching that description in the week leading up to the incident is asked to get in touch with police.

A car police identified as a white four-door 1992 Toyota Camry with black racing stripes over the hood and roof is seen in Saanich, B.C. on Tuesday, June 28, 2022. Police say the car was associated with the suspects and are asking for any public tips.
A car police identified as a white four-door 1992 Toyota Camry with black racing stripes over the hood and roof is seen in Saanich, B.C. on Tuesday, June 28, 2022. Police say the car was associated with the suspects and are asking for any public tips. (CBC News)

Police have said the suspects were armed and are believed to have been wearing body armour — a detail corroborated by several witnesses.

Shelli Fryer was one of 22 people inside the bank that day. She told CBC it was her first visit to that branch and she was meeting with a branch manager in his office when he calmly told her the bank was being robbed.

“And I look up and in the doorway is a guy standing there with an assault rifle,” she said. “[Wearing a] balaclava, vest, some guards on his legs.”

B.C. bank robbery witness describes surreal experience

Shelli Fryer was in the Saanich, B.C., Bank of Montreal for an appointment when armed robbers entered on June 28.

Fryer said the person she saw in the doorway asked the manager to bring them to the bank’s vault, and afterward she heard the suspects whispering to each other while walking in the hallway.

“They were waiting for something. Pacing quietly, like a country walk,” she said.

Fryer said she was left alone for five to 10 minutes inside the office. During that time she pulled out her cellphone and called 911.

“Why were they waiting, what were they doing?” she wondered. “They could have taken the money and gone.”

What do we know about the police who were injured?

Six police officers were injured during the exchange of gunfire between two suspects and several police officers. Three officers are now back home with their families. None of the officers’ names have been released.

According to the Saanich Police Department, the three other officers sustained serious injuries — one is still in ICU — and will require additional surgeries and treatment in the coming months.

All of the officers who were wounded are part of the GVERT, but three of them work for the Victoria Police Department while the other three work with the Saanich Police Department.

Chief Duthie said other officers did “outstanding work” tending to their injured colleagues at the scene. He credited them with saving the lives of at least three officers.

Is there a third suspect?

On Tuesday, police put a shelter-in-place advisory for several blocks on either side of the bank, saying they were looking for a potential third person involved in the robbery. The advisory was lifted at 6 p.m. Tuesday evening.

Shelli Fryer said she saw three suspects inside the bank.

Police have said they do not have any information leading them to believe there’s any danger to the public, but they still haven’t ruled out the possibility of a third suspect.

Saanich Police are joined by Victoria Police and RCMP as they respond to gunfire involving multiple people at the Bank of Montreal in Saanich. (Chad Hipolito/The Canadian Press)

What about the explosives?

Bérubé said an RCMP explosive disposal unit dealt with the highly volatile and dangerous situation, and that a number of firearms were found at the site.

He said multiple “improvised explosive devices” were found inside the Toyota Camry believed to be linked to the suspects.

The bombs were examined by the RCMP team, placed inside safe containers and then brought to the Saanich dump to be disposed of.

When will we know more?

The Saanich Police Department and the RCMP are expected to provide further updates in the coming days.

Police say they can only share information with the public if they’re absolutely certain it won’t jeopardize the ongoing investigations or contaminate the memories of witnesses who still have to be interviewed.

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