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Explosive devices detonated at landfill; one officer in ICU after Saanich bank shootout

The RCMP bomb disposal unit removed “extremely dangerous” explosives from a suspect vehicle at the scene of an armed bank robbery and shootout, transported them to Hartland landfill and destroyed them early Wednesday afternoon, police say.

The RCMP bomb disposal unit removed “extremely dangerous” explosives from a suspect vehicle at the scene of an armed bank robbery and shootout, transported them to Hartland Landfill and destroyed them early Wednesday afternoon, Saanich Police Chief Dean Duthie said at a news conference.

“This was a highly volatile and risky situation and their expertise was carried through with professionalism and distinction,” Duthie said Wednesday, flanked by senior officers of the Victoria and Saanich police departments.

Two heavily armed suspects were killed and six members of the Greater Victoria Emergency Response Team were wounded by gunfire in a “volatile, dangerous and deadly” exchange of gunfire at the Bank of Montreal on Shelbourne Street Tuesday morning, said the chief.

Three officers remain in hospital following extensive surgery. One Saanich officer is being cared for in the intensive care unit and will require more surgery. Three others were treated and released from hospital and are at home recovering with their families, said Duthie.

“My heart goes out to all the officers involved in yesterday’s incident, all team members and their families, friends and colleagues,” said Duthie. “I attended the hospitals and spoke to the officers and their families. They wanted me to extend their thanks and appreciation to the public for their ongoing support. It means a lot to them.”

On Wednesday morning, Duthie reviewed video of the shootout.

“I can say how moved I am by the bravery demonstrated by these officers. These officers were patrol, front-line officers and emergency response team officers. They ran towards live and active gunfire while a human instinct would be to run away from imminent danger. Our motto is ‘Keep Saanich Safe’ and that is exactly what these officers did.”

Duthie said he has received an outpouring of support from police agencies throughout B.C. and across Canada.

“The support, encouragement and camaraderie is alive and well and it serves our members well and keeps them motivated and inspired,” he said.

The investigation is now in the hands of the Vancouver Island Integrated Major Crime Unit.

On Wednesday, officers continued to comb through the crime scene. Shelbourne Street from Cedar Hill Cross Road to Donnelly Street remained behind police tape. Nearby stores and offices and Shelbourne Plaza were closed.

Police continue to investigate the possibility of a third suspect, but do not believe the public is at risk. The search was based on “vague information” and a shelter in place order was lifted. Investigators will continue a risk assessment and keep the public informed, said Duthie.

The chief confirmed that the Greater Victoria Emergency Response Team was already deployed nearby on a completely different operation when the armed robbery took place. They were able to leave the other call because the bank robbery was a higher priority, he said.

It’s a miracle no members of the public were injured, he said. “That goes to the quick and decisive action of police who responded to his incident, both patrol and ERT,” said Duthie.

The 27-year police veteran described the level of violence as “off the scales from what we have seen here in the past.”

Police did not provide any information on the identity of the suspects or whether they left the bank with any money. Police did not reveal how many explosives were found, what kind they were or what they could be used for.

There was confusion about a bullet-riddled white van in the bank parking lot. Initially, police said it was the suspects’ van, then they said they didn’t know.

RCMP Staff Sgt. Chris Manseau asked members of the public to submit tips related to the investigation to the Vancouver Island Integrated Major Crime Unit information line at 250-380-6211. Anyone with digital evidence related to the incident, in the form of video or photographs, is asked to upload the information through an online site.

The Independent Investigations Office is also investigating the police shooting.

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