Police believe that two heavily armed men were planning for a shootout with police after they entered a bank in Saanich, B.C., in June and demanded cash.
The two gunmen, 22-year-old twin brothers Mathew and Isaac Auchterlonie from Duncan, B.C., were killed in the ensuing gunfight, while six officers with the Greater Victoria Emergency Response Team were injured.
Police say the brothers, who reportedly held very strong anti-government and anti-police views, arrived in the Saanich area around 9 a.m., two hours before the shooting occurred.
The pair circled the neighbourhood until about 10:30 a.m., when they parked in the bank parking lot.
Just after 11 a.m., the pair entered the bank wielding 7.62-millimetre calibre SKS rifles and wearing body armour. They also wore olive-green and camouflage clothing and had balaclavas on their faces.
Once they entered the bank, they fired a single shot into the ceiling and demanded cash. The money was handed over fairly quickly but the two men remained inside the bank for an additional 11 minutes before leaving, which police say supports the idea that the pair wanted an armed confrontation with police.
Twenty-two people were inside the bank at the time, including customers and employees.
The Vancouver Island Integrated Major Crime Unit (VIIMCU) says they do not believe the civilians inside the bank, or even that specific bank location, were being targeted and that they were being used to draw police to the gunmen.
Still, police stressed that everyone inside the bank was in serious danger and that psychological supports are still available for those who were involved.
Saanich police respond to the incident at the Bank of Montreal on June 28, 2022. (CTV News)Thousands of additional rounds of ammunition were found inside the vehicle that the suspects arrived in, as well as more than 30 improvised explosives.
Police say it’s not clear what the plan was for the additional ammo and explosives, but that it appears that the gunmen wanted “to kill as many police officers as possible,” according to RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Alex Bérubé.
The VIIMCU says the actions of officers that day likely saved lives. Of the six officers that were injured, three received life-threatening injuries.
The last injured officer was released from hospital in September, more than two months after the shooting occurred.
All six officers who were injured were part of the Greater Victoria Emergency Response Team, which was in the area responding to a different matter.
“It’s simply through the actions of those initial uniformed police officers that attended, and the (GVERT) team that happened to be close by – if it weren’t for those two things I’m certain innocent people would have been injured or dead,” said BC RCMP Major Crime Unit superintendent Sanjaya Wijayakoon on Friday.
Miraculously, no bystanders were injured in the shootout, which involved more than 100 bullets being fired from police weapons.
SUSPECTS NOT KNOWN TO POLICE
Neither of the brothers had a criminal history, nor had they had previous encounters with police, according to RCMP.
However, police say they learned the pair were “isolated from society” and that they harboured “deep-seated resentment and anger for authority.”
The VIIMCU completed several searches of the suspects’ residence after the shooting and now believe the brothers had been “plotting an act of extreme violence since 2019 and were fully prepared for the consequences.”
The suspects were 22-year-old twin brothers Mathew (left) and Isaac Auchterlonie (right). (Vancouver Island Integrated Major Crime Unit)Investigators say the pair were planning for an event sometime in 2023, but that their timeline was moved up to June 2022 because they were moving out of their residence and didn’t believe they could bring their supplies with them without rousing suspicion.
Searches of their residence also uncovered explosives supplies, which police have confirmed were the same ones found inside the suspects’ vehicle.
Explosive experts confirmed that the explosives were “not sophisticated” and were manufactured at the residence.
All of the firearms that the pair had in their possession were obtained legally, though police say there were modifications made, such as altering their magazines to carry more ammunition.
NO THIRD SUSPECT
Since the shootout in June, the VIIMCU has been working to determine if a potential third person was involved.
Bérubé says investigators have concluded there is “no evidence to support any third party was involved.”
Police say a witness reported that someone drove a white vehicle and dropped off the two suspects before the incident occurred.
Other tips sent to police indicated that a third person was spotted with the brothers the day before the shooting.
Police say they also found a two-way radio on one of the suspects, which could imply that someone was on the other end of the radio.
However, the VIIMCU says a second walkie-talkie connected to the radio was found in the vehicle that the pair arrived in, and confirmed that some of the tips from the public were unfounded and that some events may have been misremembered by witnesses.
The origin of the car that the suspects arrived in, an older white Toyota Camry, is still unclear, with police saying that the person who owned the car was not either of the brothers.
Wijayakoon says the criminal aspect of the investigation is now over.
“We are here to support everyone involved, and the community as well, as we move past this terrifying act of violence and move towards healing,” he said Friday.
Saanich Police Chief Constable Dean Duthie says he’s grateful for the outpouring of support that the police department has received, and that he is thinking of all Saanich community members.
“This is an event that we will never forget,” he said Friday.
“That said, it is important how we choose to remember June 28, 2022. At [the Saanich Police Department], we are encouraging our officers and staff to remember this day as one that innocent lives were protected and saved by police officers,” he said.