2 suspects dead, 6 police officers wounded in exchange of gunfire at Saanich, B.C., bank
Police say three officers are in serious condition and are undergoing surgery
Police say two suspects are dead, and six members of the Greater Victoria Emergency Response Team are in the hospital following an exchange of gunfire at a bank in Saanich, B.C., on Tuesday.
Officers were called when two armed men believed to be wearing body armour entered a bank on Shelbourne Street at approximately 11 a.m Tuesday.
In a media briefing Tuesday afternoon, Saanich police Chief Dean Duthie said the shooting started when the suspects left the bank, creating a situation that was very dangerous for the public.
"I don't know who fired first at this point. But there were multiple gunshots that were fired. And where we're at, I don't know."
WATCH | Police exchange gunfire with suspects outside Saanich bank
Six officers were shot and taken to the hospital. Three of them are members of the Saanich Police Department, and three are members of the Victoria Police Department.
Police said three officers are expected to be released after treatment, while three have sustained serious injuries and are in surgery.
"We are going to stay strong through this. We are going to care for our members, care for their families ... and we are going to move forward," said Duthie.
No bank employees, customers or members of the public are believed to have been injured.
Duthie said he had never seen a situation like it in his 27 years with the Saanich Police Department.
"From what I know about that chaotic, tragic, dynamic, violent scene, the fact that no citizens were injured in any way is truly amazing."
The Bank of Montreal told CBC in an emailed statement it is deeply saddened by the incident and thanked emergency responders for their quick response.
"Our thoughts are with every person impacted by today's events."
'A hail of bullets'
Cleo Gagner was getting into her car with her young son after visiting a nearby veterinarian's office when she said she heard up to 50 gunshots from different guns, and said it sounded like automatic gunfire.
"It was terrifying. I've heard a gunshot or two before. I've never heard that many."
She said a police vehicle pulled up beside her, an officer jumped out with his gun drawn, and the police presence continued to escalate.
Gagner said she and her son went back into the vet's office, where they sheltered in place with others.
Christopher Lee Ford, who lives near the bank, said he also heard dozens of shots.
"My daughter was doing some school work at the table, and all of a sudden, you just hear a hail of bullets," he said.
He said his family has evacuated the area and plans to stay with family in another neighbourhood for the night.
Joan Flood, who lives across the street from the BMO, said after hearing the first gunshot she looked out her window to see police running across the front of the bank with their guns drawn.
"At that time then, there were a lot of shots, lots and lots. I would say it was automatic fire because they had big guns; they didn't have handguns."
Flood said she saw a person come out from behind the bank.
"They were bent over a little bit. Then they crawled for a bit. Then they lay there ... very soon it was all over except for the person lying on the ground who was there for quite a while."
Provincial leaders express concern, gratitude
During a separate news conference this afternoon, Premier John Horgan expressed his concern for the people in the area.
"My thoughts are with those who have been affected by violence in my home community on Vancouver Island," he said.
WATCH | Daytime robbery and shooting leaves 2 dead, wounds 6 officers:
Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth thanked the police in a statement released Tuesday evening.
"Today is a powerful reminder of the crucial role police officers play in keeping our neighbourhoods secure. My government and I deeply appreciate their courage, professionalism and commitment."
Farnworth said the incident is ongoing and under active investigation.
Officers will hold the scene overnight while the area remains closed off, Saanich police announced around 9 p.m. Tuesday. Earlier, around 6 p.m., police lifted a shelter in place advisory, saying there was no further indication that a third suspect was involved.
Homes and businesses near the bank, which were evacuated earlier Tuesday due to the presence of a potential explosive device in a car linked to the suspects, will remain evacuated overnight. The RCMP explosive disposal unit is on the scene.
Saanich police are asking anyone with video footage of the incident to send it to them through their evidence submission portal.
With files from The Canadian Press