For eight years, Justin Henry considered himself the best friend of both Mathew and Isaac Auchterlonie. On Saturday, the 22-year-old brothers from central Vancouver Island were named as suspects in a botched robbery earlier this week at a Bank of Montreal branch in Saanich, B.C.—a Victoria bedroom community.
Both young men were killed in a shootout with police outside the bank on Tuesday. Six responding officers were shot, three of them suffered life-threatening injuries.
Police have said they found - and later detonated - explosives in the brothers’ car, a white ‘92 Toyota Camry with black racing stripes.
Neither of the suspects had a criminal record, police clarified Saturday, and neither was known to them.
“We understand that the release of the names of the two deceased may answer the who, but there are still many outstanding questions and investigation efforts that need to take place in order to fully understand what took place and why,” said Cpl. Alex Bérubé at a news conference on Saturday.
“The motive behind the armed robbery and subsequent exchange of gunfire with police has not yet been determined.”
Bérubé said the brothers were identified Friday by B.C. Coroners Service. He said police had spoken to the family of the suspects and they are co-operating with the investigation.
The RCMP described them as twins in a news conference. But Mr. Henry and several other young men and women who spoke to The Globe and Mail said they were in fact triplets, and are survived by their sister Sabrina.
Mr. Henry said he first met the pair in Grade 4, at Bench Elementary School, in Cowichan Bay, B.C. The three shared a passion for Lego, Star Wars films and the Lord of the Rings trilogy, he said.
Mr. Henry described the Auchterlonie brothers, who he said grew up on a rural property on Shawnigan Lake, in central Vancouver Island, as “unbelievably smart.”
He could tell the two apart, but “they looked pretty well identical and used to get mistaken all the time.”
Both were “very quiet and very shy,” he said. Until high school at Frances Kelly Secondary School, in Mill Bay, B.C., when they began branching out, they were like two peas in a pod: One was rarely seen without the other. “They looked out for each other. They were a team.”
Another friend, Tanner Jacobs, described them as “super nice, super friendly, decent, normal kids.”
Mr. Henry recalled that when they were around 15, the brothers — who came from a hunting family and were legal gun owners — started going to the gym. “They did some cadet training,” and were interested in military training. He said they “always dressed up in camo,” adding they “liked blowing stuff up. That was their big interest.” He said the brothers’ Instagram pages, which have been set to private, showcase photos of them in tactical gear.
Sometime after high school, the brothers began drifting away from their friends, Mr. Henry and others recalled. Mr. Henry said he hadn’t spoken to either brother in a few years. “Something had to have happened to have made them do something like this. They were really good kids. This blows my mind.”
Police have said officers, including members of the Greater Victoria Emergency Response Team, were called around 11 a.m. on Tuesday morning to a report that armed men had entered a Bank of Montreal branch, and the shooting started when the suspects left the bank. It’s not clear who fired first, but as many as 50 rounds were fired during the shootout, according to multiple witnesses.
Police have said the investigation has so far determined that there were only two suspects in the bank.
On Friday, the Saanich Police Association and Victoria City Police Union launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for the officers wounded in the shootout and their families. By Saturday evening, it had surpassed its goal of $100,000.
We have a weekly Western Canada newsletter written by our B.C. and Alberta bureau chiefs, providing a comprehensive package of the news you need to know about the region and its place in the issues facing Canada. Sign up today.