British Columbia

White, male, young and disgruntled: Saanich bank robbers latest in line of violent B.C. criminals

Brothers Mathew and Isaac Auchterlonie were heavily armed when they died in a shootout with police last week

Posted: July 06, 2022
Last Updated: July 06, 2022

A photo of Mathew and Isaac Auchterlonie from Isaac's now deleted Instagram account. (Isaac Auchterlonie/Instagram)

Eight days after two heavily armed brothers died in a gunfight with police after robbing a bank in Saanich, B.C., some of the most basic questions about the crime remain unanswered.

What possibly could have motivated Mathew and Isaac Auchterlonie, the deceased 22-year-olds from Duncan, B.C.?

Were they killed by police? Or did they die by suicide?

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And how did the brothers' affinity for guns factor into their actions?

The RCMP is releasing few details as the investigation moves into its second week. But Western University criminologist and author Michael Arntfield says the nature of the crime does have telling details.

"[The] militarized takeover bank robbery ... is a very rare crime," said Arntfield. "That's what we call a takeover robbery, which would suggest that they certainly were prepared for, if not actively seeking, some kind of shootout with somebody."

On his now-deleted Instagram account, Isaac Auchterlonie marked the 24th anniversary of a famous 1997 bank robbery known as the North Hollywood shootout. The post can be seen on YouTube, where someone captured a video tour of the Instagram account before it was taken down. 

Isaac Auchterlonie instagram post marking the 24th anniversary of the North Hollywood shootout. (Isaac Auchterlonie/Instagram)

Auchterlonie's post shows video of the prolonged gunfight between two heavily armed bank robbers and members of the Los Angeles Police Department. One of the robbers died by suicide. Police killed the other. Twelve officers and eight civilians suffered injuries.

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Six officers with the Greater Victoria Emergency Response Team were injured in the Saanich shootout. Three remain in hospital, one of them in intensive care.

"I see striking similarities between [the Auchterlonies] case and the Bank of America North Hollywood shootout in 1997," said Arntfeld. "Similar armaments, similar sort of preparedness to go out in a blaze of glory and shoot as many police officers as possible." 

Comparisons can also be made to other high-profile cases of gun violence in British Columbia, if only because the perpetrators were all young, white and seemingly disillusioned men.

Like Ryan Grantham, the actor currently being sentenced in B.C. Supreme Court for second-degree murder, the Auchterlonies had an affinity for guns and a hatred of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Isaac Auchterlonie's Instagram account was full of gun photos, war references and video of him and his brother in camouflage shooting rifles in the forest. There are also plenty of pro-gun, anti-Trudeau posts with hashtags like #tryandtaketheguns, #liberalsmakingCanadaNaziGermany and #f---youtrudeau. 

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Graduation photo of Isaac and Mathew Auchterlonie posted on Isaac's Instagram account. (Isaac Auchterlonie/Instagram)

Grantham was 21 when he shot his mother in the back of the head while she played piano in their Squamish townhouse. At his sentencing hearing last month, the court heard how the matricide was a prelude to plans he had to kill Trudeau and commit mass violence. The day after the murder, Grantham packed his car with guns, Molotov cocktails and a map to the prime minister's Rideau Cottage residence in Ottawa and set out driving eastward.

Improvised explosive devices were also found in the Auchterlonies' car, according to police, who declined to give a fuller description.

Parallels also exist in the 2019 northern B.C. highway killings case that gripped the country in a weeks-long manhunt for two teens from Port Alberni, B.C.

Like the Auchterlonies, longtime friends Bryer Schmegelsky and Kam McLeod, age 18 and 19 respectively, acted in tandem when they shot and killed three people. The pair was eventually tracked to northern Manitoba, where they were found dead in an apparent suicide.

Kam McLeod and Bryer Schmegelsky were featured in RCMP alerts after they became suspects in the 2019 murders of three people in northern B.C. (RCMP)

Arntfield said although there are similarities in the perpetrators, the crimes in all three cases differ significantly.

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"We've got a common theme of disillusioned, young, white men prone to violence. But these are all actually three different, very distinct offender typologies," he said. 

According to Arntfield, the Auchterlonies' botched robbery contrasts with Schmegelsky and McLeod, who he categorizes as serial killers.

Grantham, he said, fits the profile of a disgruntled citizen offender whose focus on the prime minister has elements in common with Nova Scotia mass murderer Gabriel Wortman.

"[Grantham] is a would-be assassin, basically, who does have some common characteristics of mass shooters," said Arntfield. 

"Trudeau comes up in many high-profile crimes. Wortman's descent into madness that touched off the violence on the East Coast was his understanding that Trudeau's lockdown measures were a pretext for his nationalizing bank accounts and taking people's money ... It's not uncommon for those types to strike first at home."

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Police are asking for the public's help in tracking the white, four-door 1992 Toyota Camry with black racing stripes on the hood and roof in the days leading up to the bank robbery. (Submitted by Vancouver Island Integrated Major Crime Unit)

A portrait of just who Mathew and Isaac Auchterlonie were has been slow to emerge. Originally described as twins, it's now known they have a triplet sister. Former acquaintances have described the brothers as "nice" and "shy."  

Sometime after graduating from high school, Mathew Auchterlonie applied to join the army but was rejected after failing the Canadian Forces Aptitude Test, according to the Department of National Defence.

Isaac Auchterlonie never applied to join the military but did complete a "Soldier for a Day" course in 2018, which gives participants a basic introduction to the Canadian armed forces. 

RCMP spokesman Cpl. Alex Bérubé said investigators are only focused on the brothers as suspects and are particularly interested in tracking the whereabouts of their white 1992 Toyota Camry in the days before the bank robbery.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Karin Larsen
@CBCLarsen

Karin Larsen is a former Olympian and award winning sports broadcaster who covers news and sports for CBC Vancouver.

With files from Jonathan Montpetit