A suspect waving a syringe and threatening he had a bomb on him put a neighbourhood in Port Alberni on lockdown Saturday.

Cruisers blocked the downtown’s usually busy Third Avenue as a tense situation played out inside the Royal Bank, as a man attempting to rob the bank made the handful of people inside think fast and consider what they’d have to do to save one another.

Port Alberni’s downtown was growing busier with shoppers when everything abruptly changed Saturday.

“You’re going on about your day and business as usual coffee as usual and then life happens,” said Bannis.

At 11 a.m. customers going in to the Royal Bank realized this wouldn’t be like any other casual trip at the bank. 19-year-old Darren, who asked not to be identified, was stopping in to say goodbye to the ladies who worked there because he was moving away, when he says a man he’d never seen abruptly yelled for everyone’s attention inside.

“He’s like just lead me to the vault I got a bomb,” recalled Darren. “I got a bomb in here,” Darren recalled the man saying “and he pulls this dissheveled box.”

As RCMP rushed to the scene, closing down busy Third Avenue outside the bank, witnesses say the suspect then began wielding something else.

“Then he pulled out the needle,” said Darren. “And then it’s like okay that can actually kill somebody or at least infect them with something terrible.”

So when the suspect had his back turned, Darren and another customer in the bank prepared to act.

“When he was in the back we just kind of looked at each other,” said Darren. “If (expletive) goes down you ready we’re like yeah we’re ready because we didn’t know what was gonna happen. I’m not saying that to pump everything up but that’s what happened it was frigging serious,” said the 19-year-old.

So neither man was ready to leave that bank even as armed RCMP entered, because they wanted to ensure the tellers were safe.

“A huge potential for violence but everybody including the staff at the bank and everybody was calm,” said Cpl. Patrick Jenkins of Port Alberni RCMP. “And we were able to locate the suspect inside fairly quickly,” said Cpl. Jenkins.

When the suspect, a 22-year-old man from the Interior was arrested and seen being taken away, relief spilled out over the bank and downtown.
He is now being held under the metal health act, as well as facing charges for the incident.

RCMP say his so called bomb wasn’t, but the shocking turn of events and people that were willing to help revealed to Carolee Bannis, the heart of this community she calls home.

“Definitely I think that’s why I love it here because it’s a community,” said Bannis. “It’s a real community not like oh we’re a community yay but not many people know each other but it’s a real community. Know each other or not you have each other’s backs. Yeah. In a, in a big way,” said Bannis.

Skye Ryan