People in the area were told to stay inside while police searched for a possible third suspect. Homes and businesses near the bank evacuated on suspicion of an explosive device.
Two suspects were killed and six police officers suffered gunshot wounds in a shooting at the Bank of Montreal on Shelbourne Street Tuesday morning.
As of late Tuesday afternoon, police continued to advise anyone in the area from North Dairy Road to Cedar Hill Cross Road and Richmond Road to Cedar Hill Road to stay home as officers searched for a possible third suspect.
Homes and businesses near the bank were evacuated due to the presence of a possible explosive device in a vehicle associated with the suspects, police said.
It began at 11am Tuesday when officers from the Saanich Police, Greater Victoria Emergency Response Team and VicPD responded to a report that two armed men had entered the bank in the 3600 block of Shelbourne Street in Saanich.
Several officers responded to the scene and encountered the armed suspects, who fired at police. Two suspects were shot by police and died at the scene.
Six officers from the emergency response team suffered gunshot wounds and were taken to hospital, some with serious injuries requiring surgery, a Victoria Police Department statement said. He said updates will be provided when available.
Three of the officers are members of the Saanich Police, while the other three are members of VicPD.
Police said they do not believe any bank employees, customers or members of the public were injured in the exchange of fire.
A dark-haired man in a camouflage jacket and black boots was seen lying motionless in the parking lot in front of the bank on Tuesday afternoon.
Residents and workers in the area barricaded themselves in their homes and offices with their shutters drawn and doors locked as the search for a possible third suspect continued.
Just after 12:30 pm, some 25 people who had been at the bank during the robbery were escorted by armed Saanich officers to a waiting bus. Some were crying.
Dozens of officers from the Saanich and Victoria police departments and the RCMP stood outside the bank on Tuesday afternoon, along with at least four ambulances.
Shelbourne Street was blocked from Cedar Hill Road past Pear Street, with several marked and unmarked police vehicles filling the street.
Officers with guns and dog teams were outside the bank.
The public was asked to avoid the area.
A helicopter was flying over the area around 1:40 p.m.
Charlotte Priest, an assistant at the Lifeline Animal Clinic across Shelbourne Street from the bank, said some of the clinic’s clients heard the gunshots and took refuge in the building. “That’s when we realized something was up. So we just closed the blinds and took cover and moved away from the windows.”
A passerby also took shelter in the waiting area, Priest said, and noticed a police van parked in the driveway of the clinic.
“There are many businesses in the area. It’s a bit shocking that it happens here.
“Everyone is a little shocked.”
Saanich Mayor Fred Haynes posted on Twitter: “Our hearts go out to our officials, bank staff and residents… There are no words to describe how horrendous this is.”
At nearby St. Michael’s College, a woman said the school was in “hold and secure” mode, with all exterior doors locked and everyone inside.
The Megson FitzPatrick Insurance Services office on Shelbourne Street had about 20 employees inside behind locked exterior doors.
Jacqueline Niemann, who was running the office Tuesday, said she heard noises but didn’t immediately recognize the sound as gunshots. Police vehicles that arrived at the scene alerted her office to the situation.
Everyone is safe, he said. “It’s pretty scary.”
Hannah Young, a pharmacy assistant at Heart Pharmacy in Shelbourne Plaza, across the street from the bank, said she heard “what were definitely gunshots.” “And she kept going. I looked outside and I could see people dodging their cars in the parking lot.”
Young said she wasn’t afraid, but she was concerned for the safety of people in the area.
“Do we need to close the door? Bring customers in? To close? It was more of a fight or flight response,” Young said.
“We saw that they were older people sitting outside and we told them they had to come in.” They led everyone inside, away from the windows, to the back half of the pharmacy.
The Saanich police are asking the people who took photos and filmed videos to submit them as evidence via your online evidence taking portal.
Jeff Roman, a spokesman for BMO in Canada, said in a statement that the company was “deeply saddened” by the incident. “The safety of our customers and employees is our priority and our thoughts are with everyone affected by today’s events.”
Roman thanked the emergency services for their prompt assistance and for helping to keep the public safe.
Saanich Police are leading the investigation, with assistance from the RCMP and an emergency response team from the Lower Mainland, among others. Sergeant Chris Garneau did not immediately have the number of RMCP officers from the capital region who were called.
A police helicopter was also dispatched to help.
An Island Health official said healthcare teams at Royal Jubilee and Victoria General hospitals stepped forward to respond to the incident. Details about specific patients were not released.
The Jubilee’s emergency department was briefly under restricted access to ensure safety, but none of the hospitals had a code orange, which refers to mass casualties, the official said.
“In situations like this, we quickly redeploy staff as needed and put contingency plans in place to ensure our hospitals and staff are best positioned to respond,” Island Health said.
As with all officer-involved shootings in British Columbia, the Office of Independent Investigations is investigating the incident.
more to come