The totality of evidence from almost seven months of investigation into last year’s Saanich bank shootout found the heavily armed brothers were prepared to die as they sought to inflict as many police casualties as possible.
The Vancouver Island Integrated Major Crime Unit (VIIMCU) released those findings in Saanich on Friday, aiming to be transparent with a community that still has unanswered questions about the June 2022 gun battle outside the Bank of Montreal location on Shelbourne Street.
Duncan’s Mathew and Isaac Auchterlonie entered the bank shortly after 11 a.m., the pair – donning improvised olive-coloured, ballistic-panel-clad body armour and armed with semi-automatic SKS rifles – were uncharacteristically calm as they were inside the bank for 16 minutes, causing investigators to conclude a robbery was never their intent.
Instead, police believe the brothers didn’t look to harm the bank hostages but wanted to use them to draw a large police response so the 22-year-olds could inflict as much damage as possible on law enforcement.
A report from B.C.’s police watchdog found members from the Greater Victoria Emergency Response Team (GVERT) arrived on scene as the brothers exited the bank. After one of those officers threw a flashbang to disorient the twins, its detonation was almost simultaneous with a barrage of more than 100 shots traded.
One GVERT officer, who was shot in both legs and one arm, said “it was almost like a continuation right with that was another boom, and then just more boom, boom, boom.” He noted the gunfire was close range, stating he could feel the “percussion” of the bullets.
In the end, both brothers were fatally shot while six officers were injured, three of which were deemed life-threatening at the time.
Through physical evidence that uncovered plans, inquiries into the suspects’ internet activity and considering the Auchterlonies ultimately followed through on their violent goal, the investigation concurred the suspects held anti-government, anti-police and anti-authority views.
The brothers didn’t know Greater Victoria that well and the bank seemed to be chosen at random, police said. Evidence of their plans, recovered from the boys’ home, showed they were planning a larger event for mid-2023, but they were about to have to move and therefore had to expedite their plants into what became the Saanich shootout.
After the gunfire exchange ended, police units got to work safely disarming 30 unsophisticated and homemade explosive devices the suspects brought to the scene.
After that was done, police searched the car the men used to travel to the bank, where they recovered more than 100 ammunition magazines and more than 3,500 rounds, along with a shotgun and three other semi-automatic rifles. It remains unknown to investigators what the brothers’ intent was with the vast amount of guns, ammunition and explosives in the event they survived the shootout.
However, police stressed the pair were prepared to and planned on dying in the shootout.
“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 spokesperson Cpl. Alex Berube, who called the shooting the attempted murder of police officers. “The individuals had been plotting an act of extreme violence since at least 2019 and were fully prepared for the consequences.”
Through their investigation, police did determine there was no third suspect, despite multiple avenues that immediately raised the suspicion another suspect may have been involved.
“We are now in a position to confirm that the suspects did act alone, they were prepared for significant violence and they were motivated by anti-authority beliefs,” said RCMP major crimes superintendent Sanjaya Wijayakoom. “I want to thank the brave police officers of the specialized units who put their lives on the line that day, your actions and your courage that you displayed that day saved countless innocent lives that day.”
The suspects were unknown to police before the incident and investigators said they were isolated from society, spending much of their time only with each other, as they harboured deep-seated resentment and anger towards authority.
A search of the suspects’ residence uncovered another SKS rifle and two shotguns in a locked gun safe. All the guns and ammo the men had were legally bought, either from brick-and-mortar stores or online, while the various modifications they made to them, such as upping their capacity, subsequently made them prohibited items. One of their rifles also had the serial number defaced.
The views and the number of weapons held by the suspects prompted questions on how the individuals were not flagged as threats sooner.
“It’s very concerning to us,” Wijayakoom said, adding that this case didn’t include markers that could’ve identified the bank shootout ahead of time. He added behavioural analysts and other law enforcement units at all levels can flag individuals when troubling information comes to light.
“I know many questions have gone unanswered until today and it is my hope that the information you now know can assist you to move forward with a healthy degree of closure and clarity,” said Saanich Police Chief Dean Duthie.
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