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2 years later: Officer recounts deadly firefight at B.C. bank

Steven Reichert was one of six officers injured as brothers aimed to kill police in 2022 incident

Warning: This story contains graphic descriptions of a violent shootout.

As he laid in a pool blood in the back of the a covert police van, Steven Reichert had been shot multiple times and knew bullets were still whizzing just outside the  vehicle, but in that moment he didn't know if they were being fired by his fellow officers or two heavily armed brothers.  

That kind of bloodshed was, as police believe, exactly why the two brothers showed up at the Bank of Montreal in Saanich with a cache of weapons and armour in June 2022 – not to rob the business, but to inflict as much pain on police as possible. 

Reichert was shot three times in a hectic exchange of gunfire just outside the bank between the Duncan brothers and six members of the Greater Victoria Emergency Response Team (GVERT). 

Two years on, he's emerged from a gruelling recovery period, is back in uniform and agreed to share details of what he went through during the shootout. 

The GVERT team was providing assistance to another police team in downtown Victoria when word came in about a bank incident involving two suspects who were donning balaclavas and armed with rifles. The team of six GVERT members were at the bank within minutes and set up just north of the business so their covert van would be out of sight. 

As the team of Saanich and Victoria officers started to formulate plans for a range of scenarios, only about a minute passed before they got word from another officer, who could see inside the bank, that the two suspects were about to exit. 

The police van then pulled up to the bank and the brothers were about 20 feet from the front of the vehicle. That prompted one of the suspects to turn, raise his rifle and start firing rounds that cut through the passenger side of the van –immediately striking five of the six officers inside. 

Reichert was positioned to be the second officer that would exit the vehicle, and as he prepared to step out he felt the “heavy impact” of a bullet cut into his leg. As he looked down at the wound, he immediately got struck with another blow to his right leg.   

“Suddenly I find myself on my back – I’m in the back of the van – and things have gone sideways very quickly,” the Saanich constable said.

As the shootout continued, he recalls laying back in a pool of blood and hearing his fellow members saying they’d also been shot. Reichert was then face-to-face with one critically injured officer who was unable to communicate. 

“Everything I could hear around me was gunshots.” 

Knowing his colleagues were still taking on fire, he tried to reengage in the fight, so he grabbed his rifle and made the effort to stand, but his wounded legs gave out and he fell onto his back. It was a hard moment, he admits, as his mindset was determined to get back into the fight so he could help provide protection for his colleagues and the public.  

At that moment, Reichert watched another officer step out the side of the van and start firing back at the brothers. 

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

Reichert took the opportunity to cinch a tourniquet around his leg to stop the bleeding as he hoped that would allow him to get an injured teammate out of the van. He had no situational awareness about what was going on in that moment, he just knew bullets were still flying. But then he felt a shift where things got quiet and the gunfire sounded as if it had ceased. 

A number of other officers then ran toward the van and a patrol officer Reichert knew jumped to his aid – applying pressure and additional tourniquets to his wounds. 

In the end, Reichert was shot significantly in both legs and also in his left arm.

A calming sensation came over Reichert, who through the all the chaos was concerned for his fellow officers, and he then began to shift his focus toward the medical response he’d need to make it out alive. 

He was taken from the van and laid on the road as the medical response continued. Hearing moans and screams nearby, Reichert knew his fellow officers were in a similar position. 

Months after the shooting, police released details of their investigation, which found suspects Mathew and Isaac Auchterlonie – who were killed in the gunfire exchange – harboured deep-seated resentment and anger toward authority, police and government. Their intention on the day of the shooting was not to rob the bank, but was to kill and injure as many officers as possible, police concluded. 

The SKS semi-automatic rifle used by the brothers remains widely available in Canada and didn't face further restrictions despite heightened federal gun legislation in recent years. 

Reichert recalls the "percussion" of bullets and described the pain of their impact as feeling like an explosion. He said the high-calibre rifles used by the brothers are designed to rip apart anything that they impact. One of the rounds that hit just above his ankle "vapourized" a four-inch stretch of bone. The officer needed several skin and bone grafts and spent 10 months in wheelchair during a challenging recovery period. 

Now able to walk again and back in uniform, Reichert is enjoying the little things like being with his kids or going shopping. 

"We were able to achieve our ultimate goal which was securing the hostages and protecting the innocent people," he said, noting nobody in the bank or in the public was physically injured. 

In the wake of the shooting, the officer had to grapple with the impact to his body and he remembers asking himself whether he'd ever get back to things like joining his kids on the trampoline. The incident also brought mental struggles and Reichert said that, for some time, he avoided addressing how devastating the shooting and its impact were. 

Realizing he wasn't in a good place, the officer found a support network that he could talk and be vulnerable with, and that led him to others who were also having hard days in the shooting's aftermath.

“That allowed me to see that I wasn’t alone and that I wasn’t going to win this fight by just doing it myself,” Reichert said as he paralleled the experience with police working together on the day of the incident. 

The officer is grateful for the support both he and local police received after the event. The public sent letters and cards to him in hospital, he saw people wearing stickers in support of the officers involved and those who learn he was one of the responding members are quick to express their gratitude. 

“I think the community support has probably been one of the most powerful experiences of this whole incident,” Reichert said. 

“It allowed me to feel that whatever sacrifice I made was worth it.”

Jake Romphf

About the Author: Jake Romphf

In early 2021, I made the move from the Great Lakes to Greater Victoria with the aim of experiencing more of the country I report on.
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