Warning: This story contains details of violence.
- RCMP say suspects’ goal was to shoot and kill as many police officers as possible.
- Brothers Mathew and Isaac Auchterlonie, both 22, used the bank robbery to draw out police and did not intend to steal money or harm the public.
- Suspects were motivated by “anti-government” and “anti-police” views.
- RCMP investigation ruled out third suspect, despite initial fears another person was involved.
- Brothers had been planning violence since 2019 and spent a “significant” amount of their money acquiring firearms.
Police say two suspects shot dead by police in a gunfight outside a bank in Saanich, B.C., last year went to the branch with the intent to hurt or kill as many officers as possible, having planned an attack for several years.
An investigation detailed for the first time Friday found brothers Mathew and Isaac Auchterlonie, both 22, wanted a shootout with police — not money — when they went into a local Bank of Montreal branch around midday on June 28.
The men were heavily armed with semi-automatic rifles, body armour and improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, in the trunk of the white car they used to circle the bank before parking and going inside at 11:02 a.m. PT.
The brothers held 22 people inside the bank to attract police. They walked out to the parking lot 16 minutes later.
Six specialized police officers were shot in the ensuing gunfight. The suspects were killed.
“It was determined the suspects’ primary objective was to shoot and kill police officers in what they saw as a stand against government regulations, especially in relation to firearms ownership,” said RCMP Cpl. Alex Bérubé of the Vancouver Island Integrated Major Crime Unit.
The RCMP news conference on Friday provided the clearest picture to date around the brothers’ motive for the crime and their movement in the hours leading up to the shooting. An investigation from B.C.’s police watchdog in December focused on the interaction between the suspects and police, clearing the officers of any wrongdoing in the face of “unbridled violence.”
The officers who were shot are members of the Greater Victoria Emergency Response Team (GVERT), specially trained to respond and deal with dangerous and high-risk incidents in the area. Three are from the Saanich Police Department and three were members of Victoria Police.
Four of those officers are back at work — two from each department. The two remaining GVERT officers, one from Saanich and one from Victoria, have not been able to return.
Both departments noted several additional staff, including three police officers from Saanich, are also off work due to psychological trauma.
“As we all know, there were significant … injuries that were suffered on that day,” said Saanich Police Chief Const. Dean Duthie.
On Tuesday, RCMP said investigators concluded the Auchterlonies had strong “anti-government” and “anti-police views” based on searches of their belongings — including their phones and their bedrooms at their mother’s home.
Mounties said neither brother had a criminal record and the SKS semi-automatic rifles used in the shooting were legal weapons, though they were using prohibited magazines and one gun had been illegally altered to remove the serial number.
The suspects each had a valid Possession and Acquisition Licence for firearms.
The brothers had been planning the event since at least 2019, officers added. A “larger attack” had been planned for 2023, but investigators believe the suspects sped up the timeline because they were moving.
“The suspects concluded that they could not move their arsenal of weapons to a new location without attracting attention and thus selected the bank location at random,” said Bérubé.
The bank is in a largely residential neighbourhood of Saanich, about a kilometre west of the University of Victoria campus on southern Vancouver Island. The plaza was full of people running errands at nearby shops or stopping at restaurants for lunch when the shooting began around midday on a Tuesday.
RCMP said there was no evidence the suspects wanted to hurt civilians.
Investigators initially feared there was a third suspect involved in the shooting based on several factors including immediate witness accounts, information from hostages and a two-way walkie-talkie found with the suspects. Some people unrelated to the crime were also seen wearing camouflage in the community after the incident, rattling first responders already on high alert.
On Friday, RCMP said they ruled out the possibility of a third suspect after speaking with witnesses and canvassing the area. Some witnesses, investigators said, citing an example, had confused GVERT first responders in the unmarked van as suspects.
Investigators lay out suspects’ timeline
Using cellphone data and various videos of the brothers’ Toyota Camry, Mounties pieced together a timeline of the suspects’ movement before they got to the bank that Tuesday.
Investigators said the Auchterlonies were in the Mill Bay area, north of Saanich, and headed to the Victoria area around 8:26 a.m. PT.
Their car was seen 27 times on surveillance video in the area of the BMO branch between 9:22 and 9:54 a.m. PT, including several instances where the suspects circled the bank and drove in and out of the parking lot.
RCMP believe the brothers chose the bank at random.
Click on locations above to get details of the suspects’ movements.
The suspects went into the branch at 11:02 a.m. Officers from the GVERT and Saanich Police Department responded to 911 calls shortly after.
The brothers walked out into the parking lot as an unmarked van carrying seven police officers pulled in — all members of the emergency response team, who had already been nearby on another call.
The Independent Investigation Office of B.C.’s report in December found one of the brothers turned to face the van and raised his rifle.
An officer opened a sliding door and threw out a flashbang device to try and distract the two men, but gunfire broke out almost immediately.
Several officers were shot.
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The team’s medic and driver both fired pistols at the Auchterlonies as other officers tended to their injured colleagues. Other responding officers ran toward the scene and opened fire.
According to the IIO report, one of the brothers was shot in the head as he tried to move across the parking lot. The other was hit several times while he shot at the van, later trying to crawl toward his brother.
Autopsies showed one brother was hit by three police bullets and the other was struck by nine.
After the brothers were shot and killed, police found a large cache of guns, ammunition and 30 homemade explosive devices in their car that was parked near the bank.
RCMP said the rifles used in the shooting were of Russian origin and dated back to the 1950s, but could not be traced.