“That’s an example of a hero who put their life on the line,” said Saanich Police Department Chief Dean Duthie when asked about the Greater Victoria Emergency Response Team medic who, with only a pistol, stood in front of injured officers to face gunfire from two suspects armed with semi-automatic rifles.
Almost six months after the incident, Duthie and Victoria Police Department Chief Del Manak gave a statement at the Saanich Police Department in response to the Dec. 21 report issued by the Independent Investigations Office of British Columbia (IIO).
The civilian-led police oversight agency cleared officers of any wrongdoing for their use of lethal force during the June 28 Saanich BMO shootout. While many questions remain, the report did outline more details about the bank robbery and the exchange of gunfire between the two suspects and GVERT.
“We all saw the video, we saw what happened, how quickly it happened … That was the only course of action that could resolve that situation in the quickest, most peaceful way to reduce harm as best as possible,” Duthie said of the lethal force.
Manak added, “the report paints a clear picture of the events that officers faced.”
Six officers were shot during the exchange and two suspects – brothers Mathew and Isaac Auchterlonie – were killed.
Of the six officers, three were members of the Saanich Police Department and three were members of the VicPd.
By June 29, three of the injured officers had been released from hospital but the other three sustained what were initially considered life-threatening injuries, some requiring extensive surgeries.
The last injured officer was released from hospital on Sept. 7 – 71 days after the shootout.
In the Dec. 21 update, the chiefs said two of the injured officers have returned to work but four – two from VicPD and two from Saanich – are still recovering and have not returned.
Of the two Saanich members, Duthie said “their attitudes and their inner strength and their passion for recovery couldn’t be stronger and it inspires every one of us … But their journey is going to be a long one.”
Duthie and Manak thanked the community for their continued support.
Manak noted officers and civilian staff continue to receive supports to deal with the physical and emotional toll taken on members and their families. Duthie added the report will likely stir up a range of emotions and he hoped it will help members of the departments, their families, community members and others involved in the incident on their healing journey.
Both departments often think of BMO staff and customers who were in the bank that day. On a recent visit to the Shelbourne branch, Duthie said members were overcome when they exited into the parking lot and noted processing trauma is not easy and takes time.
The Vancouver Island Integrated Major Crime Unit continues its investigation. While Duthie said that investigation is actively continuing, he couldn’t give a timeline on when it may be completed.
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