A bank robbery was foiled in Campbell River thanks to an observant bus driver Thursday afternoon.
Campbell River RCMP responded to a report of a bank robbery at the Bank of Montreal downtown around 2:30 p.m. on June 2. According to witnesses, a masked man entered the bank and presented a note demanding money from one of the tellers. He was given what police call a “substantial amount of cash” and fled the bank on foot. Witnesses also saw the man changing clothes a short distance away.
BC Transit driver Doug Gallant saw the RCMP vehicles heading to the scene, and continued on his normal route. Near the Campbell River Community Centre he picked up a rider who was wearing all camouflage, had his face covered and, according to Gallant was “kind of jittery.” Knowing something was up, Gallant let the man ride the bus, and continued on his route.
As he passed the Bank of Montreal, Gallant’s suspicions continued.
“I asked him ‘hey where you goin’?’ He said he was just riding the bus around and that he’d had a bit of a rough day… he was just mumbling about various things,” Gallant said. “I picked up the radio and tried calling our base, but they were in a meeting. Then I realized I can’t say much over the radio because it’s not like we were told that RCMP were looking for somebody, I didn’t even know what had happened.”
Gallant decided to hurry along the route to the Erickson Road stop at the south end of Campbell River. Once he got to the end of the route, Gallant got out of the bus and phoned the RCMP.
“I said I was a BC Transit driver, and that I knew they couldn’t give details, but I saw what was going on downtown and asked if they were looking for somebody. They asked ‘what is the person wearing?’ I said he was all in camo, so they immediately put me through to the desk. It was that quick,” Gallant said. “I was like ‘yeah, I knew it, this was the guy.’ “
However, all of the RCMP’s vehicles were still at the bank.
Gallant said he stayed on the phone with the detachment, giving them more information.
“The guy on the phone said they had one unit there now, but had no backup and were getting there as quickly as possible. He asked some more questions about where he was sitting and that kind of thing,” Gallant said.
Two more RCMP cars showed up.
“The next thing I knew, the guy on the phone confirmed he was on the bus,” he said.
“Then he said ‘OK they’re coming.’”
What happened next was “just like a scene out of a movie,” Gallant said.
“The SWAT team just surrounded the whole vehicle. The under covers were off to the right by the Shell, and they were literally just walking on to the bus as about 10 vehicles surrounded it,” he said. “They walked on, they walked straight up to him, he stood up and they turned him around, put handcuffs on him and arrested him without incident.”
Gallant, who has been a transit driver for 11 years, has never seen anything like this.
RCMP say the 42-year old was well known to them, and he was in custody to attend court on Friday.
“It was pretty surreal being right in the middle of all that,” he said. “It was hard for me because there were people on the bus who I knew, and I didn’t want to say anything to anyone. I just kept quiet, kind of played along.”
“This was the best possible outcome that we could hope for in such a situation,” said Const. Maury Tyre. “The quick response by police and the excellent witnesses allowed the incident to come to a conclusion without anyone being injured and the stolen funds being recovered.”
The investigation is ongoing.