The two bank robbers who died in a shootout with police in Saanich in June were not trying for suicide-by-cop but rather planned a major confrontation to “go out in a blaze of glory,” former B.C. solicitor general Kash Heed said after assessing details released on Friday about the gun battle.
They expected to die and wanted notoriety, he said Sunday.
Normally bank robbers are in and out of an institution in less than two minutes. “The fact that these people remained there for 16 minutes — you knew they were there to confront authority.”
Another tip-off was that they parked their sedan facing inwards, not outwards as bank robbers would do, Heed said.
Matthew and Isaac Auchterlonie, 22, part of a set of triplets from the Cowichan Valley, wore body armour and carried semi-automatic SKS rifles when they entered a small Bank of Montreal branch on Shelbourne Street in Saanich in the late morning of June 28 last year.
They died in a shootout with police. About 200 officers from various departments responded.
Six Greater Victoria Emergency Response police officers were taken to hospital. Two have returned to work.
Heed said it is likely more officers would have been shot if the ERT team had not been present.
None of the 22 civilians in the branch were physically hurt.
Heed, former West Vancouver police chief who also held senior roles in the Vancouver Police Department tackling gangs and working on drug enforcement, is recommending proactive action to prevent something similar from happening again.
“We can put stringent regulations in place so when someone comes in and purchases or accumulates that much ammunition that has to be reported to authorities. Then authorities have to have the resources to look into it.”
After the shooting, police found four more firearms, more than 3,500 rounds of ammunition, and more than 30 improvised explosive devices which appeared to be homemade.
Politicians must bring in policy changes, Heed said. “We need to create the systems, the processes and have the resources to make sure we can interdict these types of behaviours.”
Heed said if investigators had the resources or ability to probe into the lives, associates and more of the brothers, “I would guarantee that they would come out with the red flags.”
He referred back to gang killings in Vancouver when someone such as a former teacher might say that they knew early on that an individual would have problems in the future, but nothing was done at the time.
A report into the Saanich shooting released Friday by the Vancouver Island Integrated Major Crime Unit, said the brothers wanted to kill as many police officers as they could.
Evidence showed they had strong anti-government, anti-police, and anti-authority views, it said.
They were outraged by restrictions on their access to firearms and body armour.
That report followed a December report from the Independent Investigations Office of B.C., a police watchdog agency, which cleared police of any wrongdoing.
Heed said the actions of the brothers went “beyond suicide by cop. I think they wanted to go out in a blaze of glory.”
He pointed to the 1997 North Hollywood shooting at a Bank of America branch as an example of what the brothers may have been emulating.
In that U.S. case, two gunmen wearing body armour and carrying automatic rifles died, while a dozen police officers and eight civilians were injured. It is estimated the robbers fired 1,100 rounds and the police, most of whom carried standard-issue pistols, fired about 650.
Heed thinks that the Auchterlonies, who also dressed in body armour, wanted to “make a name for themselves.”
There can be problems in Canada with “people who are either anti-authority or have some type of mental capacity issue to the extent where they want to glorify themselves when they do have confrontations.”
They do not necessarily care what happens to themselves, he said.
Robert Gordon, a professor emeritus in criminology at Simon Fraser University, said the difficulty in gaining a deeper understanding of those who intend to die in a confrontation with police is that they aren’t able to talk about it if they’ve been successful.
“We don’t know what has been going on in their minds,” said.
Gordon said such incidents are uncommon in Canada. “We are lucky enough not to have a whole basket of these incidents upon which we can draw.”
His comments come as reports emerged of a mass shooting aimed at civilians in Monterey Park, California, late Saturday night. In that case, it appears a gunman entered a ballroom dance studio and killed 10 people and injured 10 more and fled the scene. A suspect was found dead on Sunday.