Dozens of South Island first responders lined the road outside Victoria General Hospital Wednesday as the final officer injured in a fatal Saanich bank shootout in June was released from care.
Firefighters, paramedics and police from several detachments as well as members of the public lined Watkiss Way as the Saanich PD officer shot in the June 28 incident was driven home.
The officer released Wednesday suffered the most serious injuries out of the six Greater Victoria Emergency Response Team (GVERT) members shot during the unprecedented event and was in hospital for a total of 71 days, part of which was in the ICU.
Saanich Police Department confirmed he was not returning to work at this time, and would instead go home to spend time with his family.
“He actually took some steps outside of the door with assistance, but this is a huge undertaking considering the injuries that he suffered,” said Chief Const. Dean Duthie.
Duthie says the eight-year veteran underwent ‘multiple’ surgeries due to gunshot wounds, especially critical ones on the night of the shooting.
Many questions remain more than two months after armed suspects Mathew and Isaac Auchterlonie entered the Bank of Montreal on Shelbourne Street and robbed it at gunpoint as terrified staff and customers watched on.
Officers from GVERT, as well as Saanich and Victoria’s police departments, responded and a deadly shootout ensued, ending in the deaths of the brothers and with six GVERT members — three from Saanich PD, three from VicPD — rushed to hospital.
One Saanich PD officer was treated and released the night of the incident and has since returned to duty. The other officer from the department was released last month and is continuing to recover at home.
According to their last update, the three VicPD officers continue to recover at home.
Duthie says that the road to recovery for the officer will be long, adding that he paid a visit to the officer on Labour day ahead of his release.
“It was a moving visit, it was so powerful and to see him and his condition. The way he was talking and smiling and his mindset and positive outlook was so inspiring,” said Duthie.
Once the officer is ready, he too will take part in a specialized re-integration program.
The Vancouver Island Integrated Major Crime Unit (VIMCU), which is leading the investigation, hasn’t answered many questions as it continues to probe what happened.
“I know when the time is right and when the information can be released it will be but there is no set time frame for this, they have to be careful when information is released and what information is released to preserve the integrity of the investigation,” Duthie told CHEK News in July.
B.C.’s police watchdog, the Independent Investigations Office, is investigating whether the actions of responding officers that day were justified.