Police say two brothers they killed last year in a daytime shootout held a Victoria-area bank hostage only to draw out officers so they could try to murder as many of them as possible.
On Friday, officials from the Vancouver Island RCMP and the Saanich Police Department revealed the details of an investigation into what motivated 22-year-old brothers Isaac and Matthew Auchterlonie to embark on their crime rampage, and whether they had any accomplices.
RCMP Corporal Alex Berube told a news conference that no one else helped the brothers in the lead-up to the June 28, 2021, shootout. He said the pair, who were triplets with a sister, were isolated from society and harbouring “deep-seated resentment and anger” toward authority figures, specifically over gun-control laws.
“It was determined the suspects’ primary objective was to shoot and kill police officers in what they saw as a stand against government regulations, especially in relation to firearms ownership,” Cpl. Berube said of the brothers, whose car was found outside the bank, loaded with more than 30 homemade explosive devices.
The brothers were dressed in body armour and balaclavas when they took 22 customers and Bank of Montreal staff members hostage. Mounties say the pair had licences to own both regular and restricted firearms, including the semi-automatic SKS rifles they used that day. The pair had illegally modified the magazines of those guns to hold more ammo. No officers died during the shootout, but six were injured.
Cpl. Berube said the pair were unknown to police but had secretly been planning the attack since 2019, according to evidence seized at the house they shared with their mother. They had initially wanted to carry it out this spring, he said, but decided to do it sooner because they had to move out of their house and were worried their arsenal would be discovered if that happened.
Police would not divulge much about the nature of the brothers’ ideology on Friday. Cpl. Berube said, “We want to be careful with that information because we do not want to incite the public to conduct similar types of acts.”
Shortly after the incident, The Globe and Mail reported based on interviews with the young men’s friends that they were shy as children, and interested in fantasy novels and Star Wars figurines. Over time, they transformed into radicals obsessed with guns, explosives and perceived government tyranny.
Instagram posts discovered by The Globe showed Isaac glorifying violence toward state officials and police, and referencing the 1993 siege in Waco, Tex. He specifically mentioned Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, in relation to the federal government’s ban on the sale of handguns and its implementation of vaccine mandates.
Cpl. Berube said five of the six Greater Victoria Emergency Response Team (ERT) officers who were injured the day of the shootout still haven’t come back to work. He said it was lucky the situation didn’t become any worse. By a quirk of fate, the group of ERT officers, who are akin to SWAT members in the United States, were on an unrelated call in the area when customers and staff started calling 911 about a bank robbery in progress.
The officers were able to respond quickly and ended up engaging the suspects in the fatal gunfight, he said.
Brian Sauvé, president of the National Police Federation, the union representing about 20,000 front-line Mounties, said a fringe minority of Canadians has always harboured extreme anti-government and anti-police views. They may be more visible now that social media connects people publicly, he said.
Six months before the incident, the brothers joined a local gun range. Mark Ammerman, president of the Cowichan Fish and Game Association, which runs the range, said they didn’t raise any red flags to other members – most of whom are hunters who avoid using military-like guns – when they visited three separate times in the weeks leading up to their wild shootout.
“You avoid politics. You’re just here to do some target shooting,” he said Friday.
With a report from The Canadian Press