Good morning. Wendy Cox here this morning.
The profile emerging of the Auchterlonie men is frustratingly bereft of answers as to what led the pair to dress in body armour and balaclavas, walk into a suburban Victoria bank last week to conduct an armed robbery and engage in a gun battle with police, wounding six officers.
Isaac and Mathew Auchterlonie, two of a set of triplets, were both killed.
Neither had a criminal record and both were described by former friends as quiet and extremely shy in their younger years.
One young man who was close to the brothers said he grew up near them in Shawnigan Lake, rode the bus to school with them every day, and spent a lot of time in their home. He said the two were into shooting and hunting as kids.
But he added that owning rifles or sport shooting is not uncommon on rural Vancouver Island. Like him, the brothers were bullied in middle school at George Bonner Elementary. Of the two, he said Mathew was slightly more assertive than Isaac.
A high-school acquaintance told reporter Nancy Macdonald that it was almost as if they were invisible.
But like other young men whose names are in the news for similar acts of violence, the pair appear to have grown distant from acquaintances, and their social-media posts became increasingly politicized in the past few years.
Guns, shooting and camouflage were featured prominently and the Shawnigan Lake childhood friend said he worried that the brothers might do something drastic and violent. The thought that they might become involved in a shooting once crossed his mind, he told Nancy in an interview. The Globe and Mail is not identifying him because of concern about his safety online.
Justin Henry, another childhood friend, also recalled seeing photos of the brothers in tactical gear. They often “dressed in camo,” adding that they “liked blowing stuff up. That was their big interest.”
This week, the Department of National Defence confirmed both men took steps to join the military, but neither made it.
Mathew applied to join the Canadian Forces, but he failed an aptitude test. Citing “privacy,” media spokesperson Jessica Lamirande said she could not specify when Mathew’s application was made, nor when the failure occurred.
The exam is used to determine both whether applicants have the mental aptitude to enlist, and which military occupation they are best suited for. It consists of two written sections, as well as a verbal portion.
In 2018, Isaac completed the CAF’s Soldier for a Day program. It is intended to give potential recruits an idea of what a military career entails. Generally, they are held on a local base. There are two Canadian Forces bases on Vancouver Island: CFB Comox in the central Island, and CFB Esquimalt near Victoria.
One incident that appears to have particularly fascinated the brothers was a 1997 robbery attempt on a Bank of America branch in North Hollywood. That 25-year-old crime – still considered one of the most violent shootouts in policing history – is eerily reminiscent of what took place last week on Vancouver Island.
In both L.A. and Saanich, two young men entered banks wearing black balaclavas and bulletproof vests with body armour strapped to their legs. In L.A., at least, the men were heavily armed, carrying high-calibre assault rifles. (The RCMP will not say what weapons were used on Vancouver Island.)
A week ago, neighbours in Saanich, a suburb of Victoria, were traumatized by the late-morning shootings. Chris Ford, who recently moved to the community with his girlfriend, Tracy, and her daughter, Eden, wondered why someone was setting off fireworks in the middle of the day. But Mr. Ford soon watched as two officers were hit by gunfire and then one of the suspects.
Multiple IEDs – improvised explosive devices – were later found in the pair’s vehicle, police said Thursday.
Mr. Ford could barely sleep in the days after the shooting and woke up screaming the morning after the incident. When police allowed his family to return home, Eden refused to go. She’s been having panic attacks.
“I think we’re going to have to move,” said Mr. Ford. “I don’t know how to make her okay.”
The six injured officers are all male, and all are serving with the Greater Victoria Emergency Response Team. Three of the six officers, who remain in hospital, suffered life-threatening injuries.
One is a member of the Victoria Police Department. The two others serve with the Saanich Police.
On Tuesday, the Saanich Police Department provided an update on the condition of the two Saanich officers. One is in stable condition, while the other remains in the intensive care unit after three separate surgeries.
“The injuries are significant,” said Saanich Police Chief Constable Dean Duthie. “It’s going to be a very long road.”
This is the weekly Western Canada newsletter written by B.C. Editor Wendy Cox and Alberta Bureau Chief James Keller. If you’re reading this on the web, or it was forwarded to you from someone else, you can sign up for it and all Globe newsletters here.