9 p.m. UPDATE: Police will be holding the scene overnight. The bomb squad is on scene and nearby homes and businesses are still evacuated.
Two suspects were killed in a brazen bank robbery Tuesday in Saanich, which also left six Greater Victoria Emergency Response Team (GVERT) officers with gunshot wounds after police and the suspects exchanged fire outside the bank.
In an update shortly before 6:30 p.m. police said they did not uncover any further indication of a potential third suspect and lifted a shelter-in-place advisory. The 3600-block of Shelbourne Street remained closed while emergency crews awaited the arrival of the RCMP bomb squad from the mainland due to a potential explosive device in a vehicle believed to be associated with the suspects.
“The information is vague on this and we’re trying to confirm it,” Saanich police Chief Dean Duthie said during a late afternoon press conference at department headquarters. “We’re taking all safety precautions necessary, we’ve asked all those areas around the bank to remain in their houses and lock their doors.”
The police plan to keep the public updated, he said, through media and social media.
Three of the injured GVERT officers are members of the Saanich Police Department, while the others are members of the Victoria Police Department. Both departments are standing behind all of their members and their families at this traumatic time, both Duthie and acting VicPD Chief Colin Watson said.
While he was unable to elaborate on the exact condition of the officers hospitalized, Duthie said in a prepared statement, “we anticipate that some officers will be released following emergency treatment, whereas other officers sustained serious injuries and have been taken into surgery.”
No civilians were injured during the initial incident.
“From what I know about that chaotic, tragic, dynamic, violent scene, the fact that no citizens were injured in any way is truly amazing and I’m so grateful for it. The officers did get injured because they were doing what they signed up to do, to protect the public, to respond to the danger and keep people safe,” Duthie said.
More updates will be made available about the condition of officers as they become available.
Police responded shortly after 11 a.m. June 28 after receiving reports that two armed men had entered a bank in the 3600-block of Shelbourne Street.
Police, including members of the GVERT who Duthie said happened to be on operation in the area, encountered the suspects as they were leaving the bank. During an exchange of gunfire – witnesses who spoke to Black Press Media estimated they heard dozens of shots fired – two suspects were shot by police and died at the scene. Duthie confirmed a report that the suspects were wearing some kind of body armour during the robbery.
“Every day, police officers put their lives on the line to protect our communities. Today is a powerful reminder of the crucial role police officers play in keeping our neighbourhoods secure,” said B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth, in a statement. “I want to thank the Saanich and Victoria police departments, along with the neighbouring policing agencies in the Greater Victoria region, including the RCMP, Oak Bay police and Central Saanich police departments, for their assistance and support. As always, first responders and volunteers also stepped up quickly to help, and we truly appreciate their dedication.”
Like many people across the country, I am shocked and saddened by the violence in Saanich, British Columbia. I’m keeping the police officers who were injured in today’s shooting – and their colleagues who also rushed towards danger to keep people safe – in my thoughts.— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) June 29, 2022
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued a statement on social media addressing the incident.
“Like many people across the country, I am shocked and saddened by the violence in Saanich … I’m keeping the police officers who were injured in today’s shooting – and their colleagues who also rushed towards danger to keep people safe – in my thoughts,” he wrote.
A shelter-in-place advisory was issued for the area of North Dairy Road to Cedar Hill Cross Road and Richmond Road to Cedar Hill Road before being lifted.
Students, faculty and staff at the nearby University of Victoria were also warned.
“The safety and wellbeing of our students, staff and faculty are a top priority. We issued a UVic Alert via SMS text message, email and UVic SafetyApp out of an abundance of caution for our campus community when we saw the Saanich Police Department’s shelter in place notice,” the university said in a statement.
The Independent Investigations Office (IIO) is investigating this incident, as happens with all shootings involving B.C. police officers.
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