Sept. 24, 1970: One bank robbery, 2 shootings, 2 carjackings and a marine-hostage-taking

Fifty years ago, on Sept. 24, 1970, Det. Sgt. Einar Hemstad and Det. Const. Doug Slievert were shot at a bank robbery in downtown Victoria.

Hemstad and Sleivert were taking a lunch break from testifying in County Court when they were sent to a robbery at the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce at Yates and Government Street around 12:30 p.m.

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Hemstad entered the bank from Yates. When he walked in, he was confronted by the suspect, 19-year-old Burkhard Bateman. Bateman was from West Germany, and was also known as Burkhard Gerngross and Rory Shayne.

Bateman, who was armed with a large-calibre handgun, pointed his gun at Hemstad and told him to get up against the wall.

Figuring he could get cover behind the entrance door, Hemstad moved backwards until he heard a loud explosion. He was thrown out the door, across the sidewalk, and flipped onto the roadway.

Hemstad got to his feet, and reaching into his suit jacket, began throwing hunks of flesh onto the roadway. He stumbled up the street to the Toronto Dominion Bank on the corner of Yates and Broad, where he walked in and identified himself as a police officer and asked them to call him an ambulance.

The receptionist picked up the phone, but upon seeing Hemstad’s injuries, she fainted – so the call was made by another employee.

Garden City Ambulance arrived on the scene moments later. Hemstad opened the side door, climbed in the back and said “let’s motor!”

In the meantime, Sleivert had entered the CIBC branch from another entrance off Government. The bank was a large old cavernous concrete structure, so it was hard for him to hear the shot that hit Hemstad.

Once inside, Sleivert saw Bateman with his back to him, scooping up the money from the tellers. Sleivert drew down on Bateman and ordered him to drop his weapon, to which Bateman complied.

Sleivert then had Bateman back up to him, at which time Sleivert put away his weapon and grabbed his handcuffs.

Bateman then quickly took a second handgun that he had hidden in his waistband, and shot Sleivert at point blank range in the stomach.

Hemstad was being treated at the old Victoria General Hospital on Fairfield at Quadra Street when he heard the hospital staff saying they were bringing in another shooting victim.

Hemstad replied “Good, they got him,” at which time staff advised him: “No, it was another police officer.”

Sleivert, who was critically injured, was rushed into the operating room, where Dr. Bob Hosie did phenomenal surgery and saved his life.

Due to the critical nature of Sleivert’s injuries, medical staff had put Hemstad aside to await treatment, but noticed his abdomen swelling up. Hemstad was also rushed into emergency surgery for internal bleeding.

In the meantime, Bateman escaped the bank and ran into the back alley, where he had a taxi waiting.

Bateman took the independent taxi driver, Dunc Addison, at gunpoint and had him head north on Douglas.

Saanich police constables Al Hickman and Jim Schulz were set up on the Victoria/Saanich border, on Douglas at Tolmie Avenue, where they picked up on the taxi.

At that point, Bateman shot out the rear window of the taxi. A pursuit along Douglas ensued. They were joined by Const. Jim Arnold and then later at Douglas and McKenzie by constables Ron Denny and Gordie Treggear.

The taxi commandeered by Bateman came along the Pat Bay Highway northbound at Vanalman Avenue. They came to a construction site where the highway was being twinned.

As Addison tried to stop his taxi for the construction lineup, he went out of control into the ditch. Bateman exited the taxi with both handguns blazing at police.

A fierce gun battle ensued between the Saanich police members and Bateman, with numerous shots fired. Bateman then ran to the head of the construction lineup and jumped into a stopped blue 1955 Chevrolet sedan, occupied by a group of Mount View High School students.

Bateman took the high school students hostage and had them head out West Saanich Road with the Saanich police officers in pursuit.

Central Saanich Police set up a roadblock along West Saanich, and the Sidney/North Saanich RCMP set up another one farther along.

As Bateman went through the roadblocks, he continued to fire at police. After a 20-mile pursuit from downtown Victoria to the end of West Saanich, the 1955 Chevrolet went out of control at Lands End Road and crashed.

Bateman ran into the woods to the estate of Jack Keller, comedian Jerry Lewis’s former manager, banging on the door.

Keller refused him access, so Bateman left and went to an unoccupied house, broke in and took a cache of weapons. He then went to the beach, stole a rowboat and went into the open waters, where he saw a sailboat passing by.

Bateman flagged the sailboat down on the pretense of needing help. The man and woman on the sailboat came to help Bateman, who took them hostage at gunpoint. Bateman changed clothes with the man in case police deployed a sniper. The couple was held hostage on the high seas for 12 hours.

The RCMP deployed its marine unit with numerous officers. Bateman had the hostages take him close to Stuart Island, north of San Juan Island, where at 1:30 a.m., he threw his weapons overboard and surrendered to the U.S. Coast Guard. He was taken into custody and taken to Seattle, where he was arraigned and eventually transported back to Victoria to face charges.

It took a couple of days before the police were able to sort out Bateman’s name. Initial reports identified the culprit as someone who had escaped from William Head pentitentiary rather than Bateman.

Bateman was convicted and sent back to Montreal to serve his sentence, during which time he did a daring helicopter escape from the prison yard.

With outside help, Bateman took a Vietnam-vet helicopter pilot hostage, and had him land in the penitentiary yard and then drop him off at a shopping mall.

Bateman was arrested a short time later and appeared in Quebec Superior Court, where he took a guard hostage with a handgun he had hidden in his rectum. Bateman came into the courtroom and his defence lawyer thought the gun was a replica until Bateman took a shot at the judge, with the slug landing in the wall next to the judge.

Bateman was later convicted of attempted murder of the judge and deported to West Germany after completing his sentences.

Einar Hemstad and Doug Sleivert made a full recovery and later returned to full police duties until retirement. Sleivert left the job with some health issues and died of a heart attack at 53.

Doug Bond is a former Victoria police officer.

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