Six police officers are in hospital with gunshot wounds and two suspects have been killed following a shooting at a bank in Saanich, B.C., on Tuesday.
Multiple officers from Saanich Police, Victoria Police, and the Greater Victoria Emergency Response Team (GVERT) responded to the report of armed suspects at a bank in the 3600 block of Shelbourne Street around 11 a.m. PDT.
When officers arrived, the two armed suspects began firing at police, according to a joint statement from the Saanich and Victoria police departments.
Two suspects were shot by police and died at the scene, said police.
No members of the public, including bank employees or customers, are believed to have been injured in the incident, according to the joint statement.
Three of the six officers who were shot are members of the Saanich Police Department, while the other three are members of the Victoria Police Department.
At this time we anticipate that some officers will be released following emergency treatment, whereas other officers sustained very serious injuries and have been taken into surgery, said Saanich Police Chief Const. Dean Duthie at a live news conference Tuesday afternoon.
We will provide you with further updates on the condition of all the officers as we are able to, he said.
We are keeping their families updated and we are doing everything we can to support them, as well as supporting all of our staff.
At approximately 1:30 p.m. PDT, police asked residents in the area to shelter at home as officers searched for a potential third suspect, and examined a potential explosive device inside a car linked to one of the suspects.
At around 6 p.m. PDT, police lifted the shelter in place order and said there was no further indication that a third suspect was involved in the incident.
The area remained closed to traffic early Tuesday evening, however, as a team from the B.C. mainland assessed the potential explosive.
Saanichs police chief says Tuesdays daylight shooting was the most violent incident he can recall occurring in the community in his nearly 27 years of service.
RUNNING FOR MY LIFE
Witness Brenda Boyd told CTV News she was walking near the intersection of Shelbourne and Pear streets when she heard at least 25 to 50 gunshots and saw smoke outside the Bank of Montreal around 11:30 a.m.
But I wasnt counting. I was just going, running for my life, she said.
A police officer, who was hiding behind some bushes, yelled to her to leave the area immediately, she said.
The witness said she saw at least three people being taken away on stretchers into waiting ambulances.
B.C. Emergency Health Services says paramedics were called to the shooting at 11:21 a.m.
Seven ambulances responded to the scene and took five patients to hospital. Medics remained in the area on standby after 2 p.m.
Another witness to the gunfire said he was in a nearby bike shop when he saw two policemen get shot and saw another person lying on the ground in a nearby parking lot.
It was just terrible, Fabien Cousineau said. They were dragging policemen behind a police van.
All traffic was still being diverted from the area to allow police vehicles and medical personnel to access the scene late Tuesday afternoon.
IT WAS RAPID GUNFIRE
Cleo Gagner and her 15-year-old son were buying cat food in a veterinary clinic near the Bank of Montreal on Shelbourne Street when she said they heard what sounded like two gunshots.
Boom, boom, she told CTV News in the minutes after the incident. And then it was rapid gunfire. Multiple gunshots from multiple shooters.
She estimated they heard 40 to 50 shots in quick succession.
Then a Saanich police officer started driving up towards the BMO with his door open, she said. He gets out of his vehicle, draws his gun… and then the gunfire escalated and he retreated away.
The woman said she and her son ran back into the vets office and took shelter until things grew quiet outside.
A spokesperson for BMO says the company is deeply saddened by the incident.
The safety and security of our customers and employees is our priority and our thoughts are with every person impacted by today’s events, said spokesperson Jeff Roman.
We thank emergency responders for their fast assistance and for helping to keep the public safe.
Saanich Mayor Fred Haynes, in a brief statement on his Twitter account Tuesday, said: Our hearts go out to our officers, bank staff and residents… no words can describe how horrendous this is.
Chief Const. Duthie says hes grateful no members of the public were injured.
From what happened and what Ive described to you, and what I know about that tragic, chaotic, dramatic scene, the fact that no citizens were injured in anyway is truly amazing and Im so grateful for it, he said.
Again, the officers did get injured because they were doing what they signed up to do, to protect the public, to respond to the danger, to keep people safe.
Duthie said the Saanich Police Department and its law enforcement partners in neighbouring jurisdictions are still ready to respond to any other calls for service, and that the organization is looking to support everyone who was involved.
The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. has been notified of the incident and has opened its own investigation.
The police watchdog group is called whenever an incident involving police results in serious injury or death, regardless of if there have been any allegations of wrongdoing.