Victoria resident Shelli Fryer had an 11 a.m. appointment with the manager at the Bank of Montreal on Shelbourne Street in Saanich on Tuesday.
She had never been to that particular branch before.
Two minutes after she sat down, the bank was being robbed.
Fryer said they first heard an explosion.
The bank manager stood up and she said she looked over and saw that the tellers were all crouching down.
“(The bank manager) said so calmly, ‘we’re being robbed,'” Fryer said. “And he got a key, and as he got the key, I said, ‘should I get down?’ and he said, ‘just a sec.’ I was going to go by my chair, I was going to crouch by my chair and I look up and in the doorway, there’s a guy standing there with an assault rifle.”
Fryer said the man was wearing a balaclava, a vest, and some guards on his legs and he was just standing there quietly.
“The manager held the key out and (the man) said, ‘vault?’ and the manager tried to give him the key to go,” Fryer added, but the man motioned for the manager to lead him to the vault.
She said she didn’t hear any alarms but she could hear another voice at least and that’s when she called 911.
“It was very, very quiet,” she said. “It wasn’t frenetic, crazy, what you imagine it would have been.”
Fryer was one of 22 people who ended up being held hostage in the bank Tuesday morning when the suspects burst in.
She said she saw three suspects in total. Saanich police confirmed Wednesday they are still looking into the possibility of a third suspect. Two were shot and killed at the scene.
Fryer told Global News she could see one of the suspects pacing up and down during the robbery.
“Like a country walk back and forth, with an assault rifle.”
When the police arrived, she said she saw officers and then heard gunfire.
The next thing they all knew, the police came into the building.
Some bank employees, including a pregnant woman, were hiding in closets and small offices, with no idea what was happening.
Multiple officers from Saanich and Victoria responded to the scene and encountered the armed suspects, which is when gunfire was exchanged.
Six officers were injured in the shooting — three from Saanich police and three from the Victoria Police Department. They all went to the hospital for treatment.
Saanich police said Wednesday that three remain in the hospital in serious condition.
“Every officer that came in yesterday … had taken six of their brothers-in-arms away who had been injured, running into the line of fire to save us,” Fryer said.
“They all came in and they apologized to us.
“They said ‘we’re sorry this happened.’ And the emotions they must have been feeling? I feel so bad. I don’t even care personally for myself right now, the trauma that I went through.”
Police confirmed explosive devices were found in a vehicle associated with the suspects and some homes and businesses in the area remain evacuated as a precaution.
Saanich Police Chief Const. Dean Duthie said the explosives were transported to a safe location and detonated Wednesday.
“I feel so grateful for all the police, all the presence, all the first responders,” Fryer said, trying to hold back tears.
“I just knew my whole life, call the police and they come. And they did.”