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'Traumatic' hostage situation at bank in Vaughan over; gunman dead

Last Updated Dec 13, 2017 at 10:53 pm EDT

The province’s Special Investigations Unit has been called in after police killed a man armed with a gun during a “traumatic” hostage situation in a bank north of Toronto.

Police were called to the Royal Bank branch in the area of Major Mackenzie Drive west and Dufferin Street in Vaughan shortly after 1 p.m. on Wednesday.

The bank is situated in a plaza along with a child-care centre, dentist office, drug store and other outlets. Officers helped staff carry dozens of children between the ages of 10 months and four years old to the safety of a nearby transit bus.

Police said many people were in the plaza at the time, and some reported being told to take cover as the drama unfolded. A negotiating team was brought in, to no avail.

“Our first responding officers did everything they could to get those people out as quickly as possible but couldn’t get everybody out which then turned into a hostage situation,” said York Region police Const. Andy Pattenden. “Unfortunately, our emergency response officers had to use lethal force in order to subdue the subject.”

No one else was injured but those inside the bank were “definitely traumatized,” according to Pattenden.

“At this point and time it’s now an SIU investigation. I can tell you that nobody else was injured physically but very definitely a traumatic experience for everybody involved.”

SIU spokesman Jason Gennaro told reporters on Wednesday evening that two police officers used their firearms during the interaction with the gunman.

The SIU identified the deceased as a 25-year-old man from Vaughan.

Investigators were checking a vehicle to try to find out more about the man and his motivation.

A bomb squad robot had also been observed on site.

The SIU says there were 13 hostages in the bank at the time of the incident, both employees and civilians.

There was no information on if any specific demands were made before the suspect was killed.

“I can’t even tell you it was a robbery,” Pattenden said. “(But) being in the bank with a gun was very threatening.”

At least a half dozen people who were in the bank at the time of the incident were taken to an ambulance bus nearby, many with white blankets wrapped around their shoulders.

In a statement, RBC said it was “extremely relieved” customers and employees were safe.

“Out of respect for our clients and employees who were involved in this incident, and the ongoing investigation, we will not be commenting further,” the bank said.