Saanich, BC, Shooters Tell of ‘Terrifying Trauma’ From Bank Robbery

Police in Saanich, BC, announced on Saturday that they will allow locals to return to what had been a crime scene for days, nearly a week after a gun battle injured six officers and killed two twin-brother bank robbers.

But for witnesses to last Tuesday’s deadly violence, the trauma of the events lingers.

“The bullet [was] in our Squeaky’s Laundromat, so it was very frightening… very close,” said laundromat owner Edward Park, whose company faces the bank involved.

Twenty-two-year-old twin brothers identified on Saturday as Mathew and Isaac Auchterlonie of the town of Duncan were killed outside a branch of the Bank of Montreal in Saanich. Six officers were shot.

When shots rang out, Park and his associates fell to the ground and took cover. Police later revealed that they had found a bullet just above their hiding place, in some blankets.

“We’ve been very lucky,” he said. Since then, he has been focused on resuming his business, serving customers.

“Maybe I’m a little strange… but I have to get back to work,” he said in an interview on Thursday. “I think I can get over the kind of terrifying trauma. That’s what I think.”

Members of the public look Thursday through the doors of the Saanich, BC Police Department, where bouquets of flowers have been placed in support of injured officers. (Susana da Silva / CBC)

The effects of witnessing violent incidents can last long after the police tape is removed.

Some develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) — a condition that can include flashbacks, nightmares and intrusive memories, panic or emotional numbness, difficulty controlling emotions, and a loss of self-esteem or self-esteem, says the B.C. Department of Justice .

“Being a victim of a crime… is a traumatic experience that can trigger physical, emotional and psychological reactions that you don’t understand,” says the county’s website for victims. “It’s important to know that everyone experiences the consequences of crime differently.”

‘It will probably repeat itself over and over in their minds’

Saanich Police Chief Const. Dean Duthie says the day was troubling for everyone – witnesses, police and bank staff. He thanked neighbors and businesses for their “understanding” amid the disruption of their lives.

“It will probably repeat itself over and over in their minds,” Duthie told reporters. “To all customers and employees, know that the Saanich Police Department is thinking of you and hope you get support.”

Duthie said BC’s victim police services are available in Saanich. The program supports any witnesses or victims of crime. There is also a confidential telephone and SMS service, VictimLinkBC.

Shelli Fryer, 59, speaks at her home in Langford, BC on Wednesday about the lasting consequences of being trapped in a branch of the Bank of Montreal in Saanich, BC during a shootout between would-be bank robbers and police the day before.  In the incident, six officers were injured, suspects were killed and witnesses like Fryer were reeling from the traumatic events.
Shelli Fryer, 59, speaks at her home in Langford on Wednesday about the lasting effects of being trapped in a branch of the Bank of Montreal in Saanich during the shooting. (CBC news)

“It’s like sadness. You go through all the stages’

Shelli Fryer was a customer held hostage at the Bank of Montreal. Her voice broke with emotion as she remembered police entering the bank afterward and apologizing for the ordeal she and more than a dozen others had just endured.

“Those officers . . . had taken six of their armed brothers who had been wounded running into the line of fire—to save us?” she said in an interview on Wednesday.

Now, days later, she says her mood is still “back and forth.”

The 59-year-old said she had trouble sleeping. On Canada Day she was still wide awake at 2:54 am

The messages of support that have been pouring in since Tuesday, she said, have provided some of the comfort she sought and praised her courage through the ordeal.

“There’s just so much love I get from all these strangers,” she said.

Since then, Fryer has mentally re-enacted the events of Tuesday morning.

The trauma of being held hostage comes in waves, she said. She spoke to victim services and was told it will take time to process what she has been through.

She compared it to what some see as ordinary “stages of grief,” although psychologists say not everyone processes loss in the same way or in the same order.

“It’s back and forth, you know?” she said. “It’s like sadness. You go through all the stages, right?

“Sometimes you may never make it to the last leg.”

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