It's not what the bank robber took but what he left behind that had police scrambling to keep pedestrians and commuters away from a credit union on the Burnaby-Coquitlam border Wednesday.
"Not in 29 years have I seen anything like this before - never," said RCMP Insp. Al Ramey. Behind him, a robot from the RCMP's Explosives Disposal Unit (EDU) entered the Vancity credit union at 3977 North Road armed with a video camera and two shotgun-like "disruptor" cannons.
At approximately 11:20 a.m., Burnaby RCMP received a report of a bank robbery in progress at the Vancity credit union.
A middle-aged man carrying a briefcase reportedly walked up to a credit union employee and demanded a sum of money, somehow communicating to her that he had a bomb inside his briefcase.
Police are not saying whether the teller handed over any money but the suspect promptly left the bank on foot, leaving behind his case.
One witness who spoke to The Tri-City News at the scene reported seeing a flood of people leaving the credit union just before police arrived. Among them were some Vancity employees who gave chase after the man "at a discrete distance," following him into a Sears department store warehouse on Austin Avenue where he was "subdued by warehouse workers," Ramey said.
The man was being interviewed by Burnaby RCMP Wednesday afternoon and Ramey said that police were still trying to figure out who he is, adding that he was not co-operating with investigators.
"Given the possibility of an IED [improvised explosive device], we cordoned off the area and evacuated a safe radius and restricted all traffic," Ramey said.
By 12:15 p.m., Mounties with the Annacis Island-based EDU had arrived, sending their remote-controlled robot into the credit union to examine the suspicious case.
By 1 p.m., the Mounties controlling the robot from a nearby van instructed the dozens of Burnaby RCMP officers on-scene to halt all vehicle and pedestrian traffic through the intersection of North Road and Gatineau Place.
At 1:05 p.m., the robot fired one of its explosive charges into the case, opening it sufficiently that an armour-laden EDU member was able to enter the building and determine that whatever may have been in the case had been neutralized.
The RCMP have not yet confirmed whether or not there was any explosive device found in the case.
"It's like something out of the movies," Insp. Ramey said. "I hope that this was merely a threat."
As for the actions of the Vancity employees who followed the suspect and the Sears employees who subdued him until police arrived, Ramey said that neither company condones that kind of action, nor does the RCMP.
"We just ask that you call 9-1-1 and then follow whatever protocols there are. You don't know who these guys are and for a little bit of money, it's not worth it."