SAANICH, CANADA – Six Greater Victoria Emergency Response Team (GVERT) officers were shot and two suspects were killed following a daytime bank robbery Tuesday.
The incident occurred just after 11:00 am in the 3600-block of Shelbourne Street when two armed suspects entered the Bank of Montreal at that location. Officers happened to be in the area on a separate operation and came in contact with the suspects as they were leaving. Police confronted them and gunshots were exchanged.
Witnesses told Black Press Media that the suspects were wearing body armor and dozens of bullets were exchanged, at which point the two suspects were struck and killed and the six officers were also hit.
It appears as if there were approximately 25 people inside the bank during the robbery and subsequent shooting.
Three officers are members of the Saanich Police Department, and the other three are with the Victoria Police Department. During an evening press conference, Saanich police Chief Dean Duthie said that some of the officers were in the hospital undergoing surgery. “We anticipate that some officers will be released following emergency treatment,” he said, “whereas other officers sustained serious injuries and have been taken into surgery.”
Chief Duthie said that this incident was unlike anything he has seen in his 27-year career. He described the day as “chaotic, tragic and violent.”
A shelter-in-place order was given in the area while police searched for a potential third suspect. During that time, a potential explosive device was found in a vehicle believed to be associated with the suspects nearby, prompting an evacuation order for the immediate surrounding area.
No civilians appeared to have been injured during this incident.
No information has been released about the suspects at the time of this writing. According to the Vancouver Sun, “A man with dark hair, wearing motorcycle boots, body armour, hockey pants and a military jacket with a Canadian flag on the shoulder, was seen lying motionless in the parking lot outside the bank. His body was surrounded by what appeared to be discarded tactical police gear.”
Chek News reported, “Andy Wyld, who owns Brilliant Brothers Services, said he and a crew were working in the area when they were about to head for lunch at Fujiya Sushi nearby. ‘We were right behind Fujiya, we heard all the gunshots going off and it was at that point we saw all the cops running,’ said Wyld. ‘We had one officer, he was yelling at us to get back and everything so we went and hid behind the dumpster for a good while.’ Wyld said they heard 30 to 50 loud gunshots go off as they hid.”
Police have set up a “digital evidence collection portal” for witnesses to send in pictures and videos of the incident.
“This is a very difficult day for us here at the Saanich Police Department, for the Victoria Police Department, and for the whole community of Saanich,” Chief Duthie said at a late-afternoon press conference. “We are keeping their families updated and we are doing everything we can to support them, as well as supporting all of our staff.”
Acting Victoria Police Chief Colin Watson said , “There’s a sense of sadness and frustration about what’s happened, but also a sense of resolve about doing the best job they possibly can under very difficult circumstances. This is the type of event we hope we never see. But this is also why we provide training and prepare our officers for the very worst day — and this is one of those days.”