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Details of Saanich bank robbery revealed: police the target, not money

Investigators say Matthew and Isaac Auchterlonie expected they would die, and picked the bank at random.

Two brothers from the Cowichan Valley who were fatally shot by police during a Saanich bank robbery last June were seeking to kill officers, not to get money, investigators said Friday. 

Matthew and Isaac Auchterlonie, both 22 and part of a set of triplets, were shot by police responding to the robbery at the Bank of Montreal on Shelbourne Street at Pear Street on June 28, 2022. 

Police said Friday that the men, who acted alone, expected to die in the encounter. 

The Vancouver Island Integrated Major Crime Unit, which released the latest information, said the brothers drove to Saanich from Mill Bay and picked the bank at random. 

“They were simply trying to find a venue where they could start a confrontation with the police, and they happened to land on that bank in Saanich,” said Supt. Sanjaya Wijayakoon, who oversees the crime unit on the Island, at a Friday news conference at the Saanich Police Department. “That’s how random it was.” 

Their primary objective was to shoot and kill as many police officers as they could as an anti-government act that would also make a statement about such issues as firearms ownership, police said. 

Investigators found evidence that the men began planning in 2019 and were considering an even bigger event in 2023, but decided to act sooner because they were forced to move. They lived with their mother and were concerned that moving the arsenal they had amassed would attract attention. 

The brothers had more than 3,500 rounds of ammunition, along with body armour. 

Police said the men were not familiar with the area around the bank and drove around for over an hour before stopping. 

A member of the major crime unit, who cannot be identified, said the fact that the robbers stayed in the bank after receiving money almost right away was an indicator that they were there for something more. “People who commit robberies don’t hang around,” he said. 

He said both were employed at an unspecified manufacturing job a week before the Saanich robbery and quit to carry out their plan. 

Members of the Greater Victoria Emergency Response Team and the brothers began exchanging gunfire in the parking lot as the men exited the bank. 

A report released last month by B.C.’s civilian police-oversight agency said officers fired as many as 100 rounds at the men, who were armed with semi-automatic rifles and wearing body armour and balaclavas. 

Both men died at the scene. Family members, who identified them for police after seeing media coverage, were shocked by what happened, police said. 

None of the 22 bank employees and customers, who were herded to the back of the bank, were harmed physically, but police said they went through a traumatic experience and some have needed supports in the aftermath. 

Three Saanich police officers were wounded at the crime scene, with one now back at work and the other two still recovering. Similarly, only one of the three Victoria police officers wounded has returned to the job. 

The actions of police, led by Saanich officers and members of the Greater Victoria Emergency Response Team who fortunately happened to be in the area on another matter, “saved countless innocent lives,” said Wijayakoon. 

He called the incident a “terrifying act of violence,” and said harm to civilians was a distinct possibility since anyone going after the police is likely to disregard the safety of the public. 

The investigation that followed ruled out the presence of a third party in the crime, and involved over 200 officers from numerous police units, said B.C. RCMP Cpl. Alex Berube, speaking on behalf of the major crime unit. 

Police collected 52 video clips from surveillance systems and other sources in the area and stitched them together to help determine what took place. 

All of the weapons in the men’s possession, including four more located in the Toyota Camry they arrived in, were legally owned, since they had the right licences, Berube said — although there were some improper alterations, such as a serial number being tampered with. 

The car, which had been purchased a few days prior to the incident, held other dangerous items, as well, he said, including more than 30 improvised explosive devices. 

Berube said it’s not clear what the unsophisticated, homemade devices were to be used for. 

A search of the men’s residence turned up more explosive devices, along with personal notes and other material that led to the conclusion they were “isolated from society and harboured deep-seated resentment and anger towards authority.” 

Police said they spent all of their time together and were “a unit.” 

They were “fully prepared for the consequences” of what they intended to do, Berube said. 

“The armed robbery was used to generate a police response with the ultimate goal of inflicting damage,” he said. “These two suspects were not known to police and there was no indication that these actions were going to be carried out.” 

Saanich Police Chief Dean Duthie said he hopes that the new details revealed Friday help people move forward “with a healthy degree of closure and clarity.” 

“Please rest assured that the outpouring of public support has had a tremendous and positive impact on police, emergency personnel and the [bank] employees and customers.” 

jbell@timescolonist.com 

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