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Officer shot in deadly B.C. bank shootout details the attack 2 years later

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Two years after a deadly gun battle between police and a pair of heavily armed assailants stunned the community of Saanich, B.C., one of the officers who was critically injured in the shootout is speaking about it publicly for the first time.

Saanich police Const. Steven Reichert and six other members of the Greater Victoria Emergency Response Team spent the morning of June 28, 2022, running a security operation for a Victoria police surveillance unit as it gathered intelligence for a drug-trafficking investigation.

"We had six ERT operators in the back of our covert van and our team leader who was the driver," Reichert told CTV News on Friday.

Just after 11 a.m., the team leader got a text message from an operations commander, telling the unit to switch their radios to the Saanich police channel for "some sort of an armed robbery or some sort of a firearms call," the seven-year veteran of the GVERT said.

"We learned that there was two suspects," he recalled. "We heard information they were both in possession of long rifles and they were both wearing balaclavas."

The van began rolling north out of Victoria and into Saanich.

The team listened to the first patrol officers on scene as they tried to establish a perimeter and control traffic outside the Bank of Montreal branch on Shelbourne Street.

Saanich police joined by Victoria police and RCMP respond to gunfire involving multiple people and injuries at a bank in Saanich, B.C., on Tuesday, June 28, 2022. The chief of police in Saanich says it is amazing no members of the public were hurt during a gunfight at the bank in which two suspects died. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

Moments earlier, 22-year-old brothers Mathew and Isaac Auchterlonie had driven their car loaded with weapons and explosives into the bank parking lot and entered the building wearing windbreakers over olive-green body armour, each carrying an SKS rifle with an extended magazine.

READ MORE: Suspects killed, 6 officers injured in shooting Saanich, B.C., bank

The GVERT van drove north past the bank so the team could get a look at what was happening. However, the glaring reflection of the bank's windows prevented anyone from seeing inside.

"The information we had was the two suspects were inside, we had a number of civilians, and so around that time of our arrival, the call was classified as a hostage-taking," Reichert said.

The driver parked the van just out of sight of the bank where the team could set up and form a plan.

"We were only there for about 60 seconds," the GVERT officer said. The message was relayed to the officers at the bank that the GVERT was prepared to make the "first contact" with the suspects, Reichert said.

A patrol officer who was near the bank and had a line of sight to the door radioed: "Heads up, we have two suspects and they're exiting the bank now," Reichert said.

READ MORE: 'What were they waiting for?' Woman in bank amid shootout describes 'calm' gunmen

A plan was hatched to drive south into the bank parking lot and disorient the suspects with a flashbang grenade, ideally preventing the suspects from either leaving the scene or re-entering the bank where hostages were still huddled inside.

"What ends up happening is we roll into the bank and we open our doors for that exit," Reichert recalled. "We throw the flashbang, the two suspects are now out into the parking lot. They're essentially just on an angle to the front of our vehicle, about 20 feet away."

Mathew and Isaac Auchterlonie of Duncan, B.C., were struck down in a hail of over 100 police bullets as the heavily armed pair exited a Bank of Montreal branch in Saanich, B.C., on June 28, 2022. (Instagram/@isaacauchterlonie867)

Just as the door of the unmarked, white cargo van slid open, one of the assailants turned toward the van and raised his rifle.

"As he's doing that, he immediately starts pulling the trigger and he's able to get off a number of rounds – a series of rounds – and they (the bullets) kind of walk up along the passenger side of the van," Reichert said.

A 10-page report into the incident, published by B.C.'s police oversight agency, could not definitively say who fired first in the near-simultaneous exchange – whether it was one of the assailants, one of the GVERT members or a patrol officer responding to the threat of the raised weapon.

'Kill police officers, plain and simple'

Saanich police Chief Const. Dean Duthie, whose officers were first on scene, was in a meeting that morning with a deputy chief and other senior department brass when the door to his office abruptly opened.

"It was brought to our attention that there was a bank robbery in progress and potential hostages that were involved," he said in an interview Thursday. "At that point, our meeting ended."

Duthie remained in his office with the deputy, listening to the panicked communications over the police radio.

"Both of us heard as things transpired right to the armed conflict," he recalled. "And hearing the patrol supervisor say over there that shots were fired and there were officers down… time froze for me for a few seconds."

Saanich Police Chief Constable Dean Duthie provides an update about the shootout between two robbery suspects and police yesterday leaving the suspects deceased and six members of the Greater Victoria Emergency Response Team in hospital as he answers questions about the incident during a press conference at the Saanich Police department in Saanich, B.C., on Wednesday, June 29, 2022 THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

A separate external investigation in the aftermath of the shootout determined the motive for assault wasn't to rob the bank or take hostages in exchange for a ransom.

Rather the Vancouver Island Integrated Major Crime Unit found that "extreme violence" was the only aim of the attack, which the brothers had been plotting since 2019.

"This bank robbery had a bigger motive to it and that was to kill police officers, plain and simple," Duthie said.

'Rounds cut right through the van'

All but one of the emergency response team members in the back of the van were hit in that first burst of gunfire from the assailant.

"Those rounds cut right through the van," Reichert recalled, detailing how he was in position to be the second man out of the van when the shooting started.

"I recall being set to make that step out when, suddenly, I felt a very heavy impact to my left leg that caused me to look down," he said. "It was in that exact moment that I received another very heavy blow to my right leg."

A police van is riddled with bullet holes after the deadly B.C. bank shootout on June 28, 2022. (Saanich police)

The force of the bullets threw him onto the floor of the van. "Suddenly, I find myself on my back," he said. "Things have gone sideways very quickly."

His fellow GVERT members immediately report they too have been shot.

"I'm now laying on my back in a pool of blood and to my left is one of my colleagues," he said. "I can tell that he's been critically injured. He's not able to communicate with me and we're staring face to face with each other."

Shattered glass and bullet holes are seen inside the Saanich, B.C., bank. (Saanich police)

The shooting continued as Reichert got hold of his rifle again, absorbing a third bullet wound to his left arm.

"I was able to stand up to my feet but, unfortunately, my legs gave out again and I found myself on my back," he recalled.

"I could feel rounds ringing out and I could feel the percussion of these rounds. The velocity that these rounds travel at, they deliver quite a percussion so I could feel that kind of beating against my chest."

Bullet holes in the windows of the Bank of Montreal branch. (Saanich police)

Finally, Reichert turned and saw that one of his team members had made it out of the heavily damaged van and was returning fire.

"He was the only other person that I was aware of that was able to continue with this fight," he recalled.

"That was a very huge moment for me, just feeling that he was taking a huge risk, essentially putting himself in a position to be able to provide myself cover and protection."

READ MORE: Saanich bank shooter was rejected by military, CAF says

Reichert grabbed a tourniquet and cinched it high and tight around his right leg to slow the bleeding.

"With that now on, I decided to roll over and try to attend to my colleague who was beside me so that I can extract him and myself and get us out of the van because at this point there were still shots ringing out and I had no idea if those were shots coming from police or if we were still under fire from the suspects," he said.

Saanich police outside the Bank of Montreal on Shelbourne Street on June 28, 2022. (Joan B. Flood/Twitter)

Suddenly, the gunfire stopped.

The Auchterlonie brothers were down, one fatally shot in the head and the other shot several times but still firing before falling to the ground, damaging his weapon, and dying in a final police volley.

'Moaning and screaming'

A Saanich police colleague of Reichert's ran to the back of the van "essentially jumping on top of me and trying to find where I was injured, putting pressure on those bleeds," he said.

"She was able to apply two additional tourniquets in that first instance to control the bleeding," he said. "I still had no idea what was going on for my colleagues or anyone else on the ground."

Police evidence markers indicate bullet strikes on the wall of the bank. (Saanich police)

Fellow officers carried him out of the van and laid him on the roadway. "I could hear some moaning and some screaming and some conversations around me," he said. "I knew that there was at least a number of other officers that were injured at that time."

Reichert was loaded into the back of a police cruiser and, with lights and sirens activated, they drove to the Royal Jubilee Hospital where he was prepped and put under for the first of many hours-long surgeries.

A crime scene photo shows the emergency response van and various pieces of police and first responder equipment outside the Saanich, B.C., bank on June 28, 2022. (Saanich police)

The bullet that struck his left leg just above the ankle "essentially vapourized a four-inch piece of my tibia bone, along with significant vascular damage, muscular damage, tendon damage," he said.

The leg would require multiple skin and bone grafts, eventually stabilized by a steel rod.

His right leg hardly fared much better, with most of the calf muscle shot off, he said.

"The rounds that these suspects were using with their rifles, they're a very high-calibre round and they're designed to cause significant destruction," he said.

"They're designed to rip apart anything that they impact and that's exactly what they did. The pain is tough to describe but it was incredible."

Saanich Police joined by Victoria Police and RCMP respond to shots of gunfire involving multiple people and injuries reported at the Bank of Montreal during an active situation in Saanich, B.C., on Tuesday, June 28, 2022 THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

Reichert would spend the next 10 months in a wheelchair before slowly training his legs to walk again. He would also embark on a significant psychological recovery.

Reichert has since returned to work with the GVERT but still has one more surgery ahead of him.

Six officers were ultimately injured in the shootout. Many more have stayed home on stress leave.

The Saanich police chief says three of his department's officers remain off-duty two years later. 

"The injuries and the scars that are left are not gone," Duthie said. "Everybody can process, and does process, trauma in different ways at different speeds."

With files from CTV News Vancouver Island's Yvonne Raymond

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