It’s hard to forget the summer day a shootout between two gunmen and police stunned Saanich in 2022.
For the first time, a Victoria Police Union podcast, “True Blue,” is airing publically the account of two specialized officers who went into that gunfight detailing not just the horror of the day but the horrors that followed.
“Hearing those stories and voices allows them to know what we’re going through. We thought after the year anniversary it was a way for some people to heal,” said Victoria Police Const. Tom Stamatakis Jr, spokesperson for Victoria Police Union.
June 28, 2022, started like any other day until two men, wearing full-body armour with semi-automatic guns, walked into the Bank of Montreal.
“The first minute or two, it seemed like a normal bank robbery. The longer they were inside, the weirder it got,” E-Comm dispatcher Matt Spaans told True Blue podcast host and former Victoria Police officer Matt Waterman.
It’s one of a series of interviews the Victoria Police Union conducted on the BMO shooting around the first anniversary. It’s the first the public has heard directly from those involved.
In another episode, Staff Sgt. John Musicco, team lead of the region’s Emergency Response Team (ERT), recounts receiving the call and the uncharacteristically strained voices on the radio that followed from patrol police who were setting up a perimeter around the bank, waiting for them to arrive.
It took them seven minutes to get to the scene. Musicco says once they arrived, they did a drive-by of the bank before identifying themselves to patrol, concerned that in an unmarked van, they may get caught in any potential crossfire.
One minute after their arrival, the gunmen walked out of the bank.
“Those 60 seconds, I had to put a plan together and make decisions. That decision I’ve been thinking about nonstop for a year. I have six members in the back of my van that I make a decision that results in catastrophic injury for them,” said Musicco.
With the gunmen outside, Musicco saw a window to rescue the hostages and took it.
“The last thing I want is for them to go back in. I decided to prevent that from happening,” said Musicco.
With just a plane of glass separating him from the shooters, Musicco floored the van towards the bank entryway, opening fire at the two gunmen from the driver’s seat.
“Off the first crack of my pistol, I lose my hearing. I can see the gunman firing. I can see the smoke and a bunch of casings coming, but I can’t hear a thing. I remember having a little bit of anger creep in because I felt like my gun was working too slow,” said Musicco.
For both officers they spoke with, the gunfight that happened in slow motion, accidentally ringing out over the radio.
“We heard the shots,” said Spaans. “I just know 20 of the officers I talk with all year, multiple could be dead…My stomach dropped. It’s not something you want to hear over the air.”
For those in the back of the undercover ERT van, the shootout is a blur.
“The last thing I hear is my boss saying is, ‘These guys are wearing body armour,’ and the next thing I know, I was shot in the leg,” said Victoria Police Const. Ben King.
“I truly thought that my friends were dying. The only thing I could do was fight back,” said King. “I’m not orphaning those guy’s kids.”
After sixty seconds of shooting, the firefight is over. The two gunmen are dead, but the fight for everyone else’s life is on.
“My reaction to being shot and catching up with all this trauma was my brain was flipping back and forth between pain to self-aid,” said King. “I’d be screaming in pain, like screaming, because it was horrific pain. But then I’d snap out of it to work with Travis on my own medical. Travis was just artistic. He saved my life.”
Six of the seven officers in the ERT van had been shot, but the area was still considered a ‘hot zone,’ and considered unsafe for paramedics to enter.
“I have patrol officers taking their tourniquets off, which is meant for them, to help others,” said Musicco, recounting how patrol police rushed in and colleagues carried out lifesaving medical support.
According to Musicco and King’s accounts, one officer had been shot in both legs and was bleeding out, and another was shot in the neck. They took medical priority.
“I don’t want to shut my eyes because I’m going to die if I shut my eyes, so they kept talking to me,” said King.
Mussico, though shot in the foot, assessed his injury as non-serious and turned his focus to assigning teams to rescue the bank hostages, under the lingering threat of a possible third gunman.
“I didn’t know if our backs were safe. I didn’t know if we were walking into another ambush,” said Musicco. “Then we learn the parking lot is littered with explosives.”
Thankfully, there is no third shooter, and the explosives are disposed of safely.
“It’s a scary situation, and anyone who says it’s not, is lying. You’re in a shootout that emulates the California Hollywood police shootout,” said King. “The community deserves to know what was supposed to happen that day.”
As reported by CHEK News, the gunmen’s Instagram featured posts glorifying the North Hollywood police shootout of 1997, one of the deadliest shootouts involving police, where 12 police officers were killed, and eight civilians were injured in a bank robbery with very similar elements.
For King, it’s a haunting reminder of what could have been, hinting that there’s more to this story that’s still untold.
“There was a lot of evil that day. And we stopped it,” said King. ” We were the rock that dropped in the water, but man, there were many ripples that day.”
The first ripple was trying to recover physically.
“I wouldn’t wish the pain I was going through on anybody,” said King. “The biggest thing was the nerve damage. It concussed my nerves so that it basically killed them…I couldn’t move my foot, anything, couldn’t even bend my knee…It heals a millimetre a day, so I’ve got a long way to go.”
Then there’s the effect on King’s family. King says he tells his two kids, who were three and one at the time of the shooting that “Daddy tripped and fell over a bad guy.”
“I’m going to keep them on lockdown for as long as I can because they don’t need to hear any of it,” said King.
And despite the extreme toll the shootout has taken on King, Musicco, and other officers, the fact that no one from the community was hurt makes their sacrifice worth it.
“We paid a significant price as a result, but I’m happy to do it again,” said Musicco.
Going public with private pain, with the ultimate goal of helping to heal.