Armed 25-year-old man shot dead by police after hostages taken inside Vaughan bank
Rachael D'Amore, CTV News Toronto
Published Wednesday, December 13, 2017 2:29PM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, December 13, 2017 9:47PM EST
York Regional Police say officers have shot and killed an armed suspect after he allegedly stormed a Vaughan bank, taking staff and customers hostage.
Police were made aware of the situation shortly after 1 p.m. on Wednesday.
Const. Andy Pattenden said officers responded to the RBC bank branch near Major Mackenzie Drive West and Dufferin Street after receiving calls about a man inside the bank with a gun.
When officers arrived, Pattenden said they spotted the armed man and promptly surrounded the bank and plaza with Emergency Response Unit officers, an armoured vehicle and a helicopter.
“We immediately brought in all other resources that we could to basically contain the area and get as many people out as we could,” he said.
“Unfortunately they couldn’t get everyone out so it did turn into a hostage situation for us.”
Pattenden said negotiators were called to the scene but officers were ultimately forced to use “lethal force in order to gain control of the suspect.”
The suspect was pronounced dead at the scene. The Special Investigations Unit, a provincial agency which automatically investigates any incident where police use lethal force, later said that the deceased was 25 years old.
“There were a number of people that were inside, both staff and patrons,” Pattenden said. “Our first responding officers really did do an excellent job getting those people out as quickly as possible but there were still some inside with the subject, and that could be part of the reason why lethal force had to be used.”
Police said 13 people were held hostage at the time – both customers and staff.
He said police will be doing “everything they can” to help those people, including offering them support from victim services.
Speaking with reporters at the scene Wednesday evening, SIU spokesperson Jason Gennaro told reporters that two police officers “discharged their firearms” and the “man was struck.”
He added that there was no indication so far that the suspect fired his gun at police. Four subject officers and six witness officers with the SIU have been deployed to work on this case.
At the height of the situation, police officers visited a number of other businesses within the busy plaza and instructed people inside to take cover.
A woman inside a nearby pottery studio told CP24 that she and five others were told to hide in the washroom shortly after 1 p.m.
“A cop came into our store and told us that we were fine but that we needed to get into some sort of basement or hide in general,” the woman, who identified herself only as Olivia, said.
“We’re all pretty shaken up right now.”
At one point, a nearby daycare was evacuated and police helped staff guide a group of young children out of the facility and onto a waiting transit bus where they would be sheltered while police taped off the plaza.
One officer could be seen pushing a crib on wheels through the parking lot to the bus. The children’s ages range from 10 months to four years old.
The owner of the daycare told CTV News Toronto that an alert was sent out to parents notifying them of the incident and parents were waiting to pick up their children at the parking lot away from the scene.
RBC issued a statement after the incident.
“Our number one priority is ensuring the safety and well-being of our clients and employees and we are extremely relived that they are all safe and accounted for,” the statement said. “Employees and clients are receiving support during this difficult time.”
Pattenden said investigators are still working to determine a motive.
“I can’t even tell if you it was robbery, we don’t even know at this point,” he said. “All that we know is that there was a man with a gun inside the bank that turned into a hostage situation.”
Roads in the vicinity of the plaza have been closed and police are urging the public to avoid the area while a thorough investigation is conducted.
Pattenden said officers are investigating a vehicle of interest parked near the bank in the plaza.