Brothers’ goal in Saanich bank shootout was to kill police, didn’t expect to survive

Brothers’ goal in Saanich bank shootout was to kill police, didn’t expect to survive

The brothers who stormed a Saanich bank last June in what looked like a brazen  robbery attempt had actually been planning for an armed conflict since 2019, with the goal of killing as many police officers as possible, an RCMP investigation has found.

The long-awaited findings of a probe into the June 28, 2022 shootout at the Bank of Montreal on Shelbourne Street were released Friday by the Vancouver Island Integrated Major Crime Unit, with the report answering some — but not all — of the questions surrounding the brothers and their motivations, how they obtained the cache of equipment used in their shocking plan and who else may have been involved.

VIIMCU assumed conduct of the file the day the shooting took place, with the main goal of determining whether a third person may have been involved in the incident, following reports from witnesses and others that another suspect was linked to the crime and remained unaccounted for.

However, the investigation concluded that Cowichan-area brothers Matthew and Isaac Auchterlonie acted alone in the planning and execution of the robbery that ended with six officers injured and the brothers’ deaths, police confirmed Friday.

Timeline constructed from hours of video, phone records

With over 50 video sources and 70 points of reference from cell-phone tracking, the investigation was able to piece together a detailed timeline of the suspects’ movements leading up to the tragic events.

The timeline shows that the brothers left their home in the Mill Bay area at 8:26 a.m. the day of the shooting, arriving in the Shelbourne area of Saanich at 9:06 a.m.

The brothers then proceeded to drive around in circles before focusing in on the BMO bank in Saanich, which they entered just after 11 a.m. After robbing the bank while wearing body armor and carrying two SKS semi-automatic rifles, they stayed in the bank for an additional 11 minutes before engaging in a gun battle with police that would leave the brothers dead and six officers injured.

At 11:02 a.m. surveillance cameras captured the brothers — armed with SKS semi-automatic rifles and wearing balaclavas and body armour — entering the bank. But after being handed a small amount of cash within about five minutes, they continued to stay in the business for another 11 minutes before exiting, a detail that helped police determine the money was not what they were after.

“The time spent in the bank and their actions made it apparent to police that the objective of the robbery was not to take money, but rather to generate an armed confrontation,” said Cpl. Alex Bérubé, BC RCMP spokesperson for VIIMCU

A complete timeline of the morning leading up to the June 28, 2022 robbery and shootout:

  • 8:26-8:56 a.m.: Suspects leave their home in the Mill Bay are and drive into Greater Victoria.
  • 9:06: Suspects were seen around the area where the offence took place, driving in loops between 9:06 a.m and 10:21 a.m.
  • 10:24: The suspects’ Toyota Camry is seen driving back and forth on Pear Street south of BMO on Shelbourne
  • 10:27: Suspects focus on the BMO bank, drove into the parking lot, then drove back out 20 seconds later
  • 10:30: Camry is repeatedly filmed driving in the area, driving back in and out of the parking lot.
  • 10:54: Camry is captured on video by a passing bus in the BMO parking lot where it was found following the shooting. The Camry would end up being seen 27 times on CCTV between 9:22 a.m. and 10:54 a.m.
  • 11:02: The brothers, armed with rifles, balaclavas, and body armor, entered the BMO bank with 22 civilians (staff and customers) inside, prompting multiple calls to police.
  • 11:07 (approx.): The men are provided an undisclosed amount of money. From this point on, they’re waiting for officers to arrive to engage in the planned confrontation, according to RCMP.
  • 11:18: The pair exits the bank after spending 16 minutes inside and the shootout with police unfolds quickly.

When police searched the vehicle the brothers arrived in, they found more than 30 improvised explosive devices that appeared to be hand-made, as well as three more semi-automatic rifles, a shotgun, more than 3,500 rounds of ammunition, and additional army surplus equipment and body armor.

All of the firearms and ammunition were obtained legally and both brothers held valid licenses for restricted and non-restricted firearms.

Police initially considered the possibility of a third suspect being involved in the incident, based on witness accounts, tips from the public, and evidence at the scene, such as two-way radios and witness reports that the suspects may have been dropped off by another person driving their vehicle.

However, as the investigation progressed, further examination of the evidence revealed that the suspects were using the radios for communication between themselves and not with anyone else.

Additionally, the hostages inside the bank reported hearing the suspects talking to each other and some believed they may have been communicating with a third, but police have since ruled out any transmissions or communication to or from an additional suspect.

In the end, the VIIMCU investigation was able to definitively rule out the involvement of a third suspect and determined that the two brothers were the only individuals involved in the incident.

Brothers wanted to kill as many police as possible: RCMP

The brothers spent their time isolated from the public and mostly stuck to each other.

Police said both men worked at the same manufacturing business until they quit a week before the shooting. They spent a “significant” amount of their income on the weapons, ammunition and armour used or intended to be used in their plan.

One thing they did not plan was their robbery target, investigators revealed, saying the location of the BMO on Shelbourne was chosen at random on the day of the event. They may not have even know they were in the District of Saanich at the time, said police.

Their intention: to bring down as many officers as they could.

“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 Bérubé.

Further investigation uncovered that the brothers went in believing they would be killed in the ensuing confrontation, according to police, though they had plans to use additional firearms and explosives had they survived the initial interaction.

“How many police officers were they planning on killing that day? The answer is simple: as many as they could,” said Bérubé. “It’s as simple as that, they were there to inflict damage. The employees and the civilians inside of them were not the target, they were clearly targeting police.”

The twin brothers were killed in the shootout. Six officers were shot and injured — but none died.

That was due in part to the heroic actions of officers who arrived on the scene as well as the luck of Greater Victoria’s Emergency Response Team already being in the area and able to respond quickly, said Supt. Sanjaya Wijayakoom of the BC RCMP Major Crime Section.

“It’s simply through the actions of those additional uniformed police officers who attended, and then the Victoria and Saanich GVERT team who happened to be close by. If not for a combination of those two things, I’m certain that people would have been injured or dead,” Wijayakoom said.

More light shed on brothers’ motivations

Before the conflict, the Auchterlonie brothers did not have a criminal record and were not known to police.

But the VIIMCU investigation found they held “strong anti-government and anti-police views,” based on a “totality” of evidence uncovered in the days and weeks afterward, that led to them enacting their violent plans.

According to Bérubé, the Auchterlonie brothers had been meticulously planning an “act of extreme violence” since 2019, with the intention of carrying it out in mid-2023.

However, as they were in the process of moving out of the home they shared with their mother, they decided to hasten their plan and carry out the attack within days.

“The suspects concluded that they could not move their arsenal of weapons to a new location without attracting attention, and thus elected the bank location at random,”Bérubé said.

The family of the brothers, who came forward almost immediately to identify them to police, expressed shock to investigators and have universally condemned their actions. They have cooperated with police from the outset of the investigation.

Friday’s report, which concluded all police-related investigations into the shootout, follows another released on Dec. 21 by the Independent Investigations Office of B.C., which cleared the officers who fatally shoot the brothers of any wrongdoing.

READ MORE: New report sheds light on deadly Saanich bank shootout, heroic actions of officers

Jeff LawrenceJeff Lawrence

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