Two robbery suspects believed to be wearing body armour died in a barrage of bullets exchanged with police outside a bank in Saanich, B.C., on Tuesday.
Six members of the Greater Victoria emergency response team were also hurt, three of them seriously, police said.
Saanich Chief Const. Dean Duthie said some homes in the area also had to be evacuated as police investigated a potential explosive device in a vehicle related to the suspects.
He said he’s never seen this level of violence in Saanich in the 27 years he has served on the force.
“This is something that shakes a community,” Duthie told the media outside the Saanich detachment. “People are going to be affected by this and we’re cognizant of this.”
Later Tuesday, police lifted a shelter-in-place advisory for other residents in the neighbourhood because they said they found no further indication of a possible third suspect involved in the robbery.
Duthie said police believe some of the six officers will be released from hospital soon, while others have more serious injuries and had surgery.
Officers were called to a report that armed men had entered a Bank of Montreal branch, but Duthie said the shooting started when the suspects left the bank, creating a situation that was very dangerous for the public.
“I don’t know who fired first at this point. But there were multiple gunshots that were fired.”
He said the two suspects shot by police died at the scene.
Duthie said he was thankful that no customers, bank employees or other members of the public were injured in the shootout.
“From what I’ve described to you and what I know about that chaotic, tragic, dynamic, violent scene, the fact that no citizens were injured in any way is truly amazing.”
Jacob McAndrews, owner of Gordon Head Paintworks in Victoria, had pulled into a sushi restaurant next to the bank when he said he saw police sitting with assault rifles at the corner.
“I asked them if I should leave, and they said, just park in the corner, and duck down.”
That’s when McAndrews said he started filming.
His video shows a police dog barking as it leads the armed officers around a corner. Sounds of dozens of gunshots follow. One officer is seen shooting his weapon, while another officer runs toward the building with a gun in his hand.
McAndrews described the scene as “pretty scary.”
“This is the first time I ever heard gunshots in Victoria,” he said. “Hopefully, it was a one-off thing.”
Duthie said the emergency response team happened to be deployed Tuesday and wasn’t far from the scene.
“Their quick response was invaluable and brought this situation to a quick resolve. We are so grateful for their service.”
Saanich is a community of about 120,000 within the greater Victoria area on Vancouver Island. It has its own police force.
The Greater Victoria emergency response team is a blend of officers from different detachments. Three of the officers hurt are from Saanich, while the other three are from Victoria.
The Bank of Montreal said in a statement that it was deeply saddened to hear of the incident and thanked emergency responders for their fast assistance in keeping the public safe.
“The safety and security of our customers and employees is our priority and our thoughts are with every person impacted by today’s events,” it said.
Tracy Yarr said she went around her house locking the doors and shuttering her windows soon after the police put out an advisory telling people to stay inside and avoid the area.
“I’ve locked everything down,” she said, adding the shooting had taken away her sense of comfort and calm.
“This is really astounding for us,” she said. “I mean, shocking.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a post on social media that he is “shocked and saddened by the violence.”
“I’m keeping the police officers who were injured in today’s shooting – and their colleagues who also rushed towards danger to keep people safe – in my thoughts,” he said.
B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth released a statement saying his thoughts are with the officers, their families, friends and colleagues and he wishes them a quick recovery.
Farnworth said the shooting is a powerful reminder of the crucial role police officers play in keeping neighbourhoods safe.
“As always, first responders and volunteers also stepped up quickly to help, and we truly appreciate their dedication.”
– With files from Hina Alam in Vancouver
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