"The armed assailants physically battered staff and robbed them of personal belongings."
Jeff Kornatowsky of Journey Approved (1881 Lougheed Hwy.) in Port Coquitlam tells the Tri-City News employees had their wallets, phones and jewelry stolen after they were robbed by four individuals with firearms on Tuesday (Nov. 22).
The assailants arrived in their own vehicle at around 3:45 p.m. and subjected the staff to violence, which required one Journey Approved staff member to be sent to hospital with minor injuries, said Kornatowsky, a principal dealer for Journey Auto Group.
He explained RCMP and BC Ambulance acted quickly to deal with the "chaotic armed robbery" and subsequent trauma.
"We would like to thank the RCMP and BC Ambulance Services for their quick response and professionalism both during and after the incident. They were on scene within minutes from the first call and stayed well after to ensure everyone was ok," said Kornatowsky.
Journey Approved opened earlier this year as a subsidiary of the Journey Auto Group, specializing in automotive financing and leasing.
"We would also like to praise our staff at Journey Approved for keeping their calm during this chaotic armed robbery. We will be working with victim services to ensure our staff receive the help they may need to recover from this event."
None of the victims sustained life-threatening injuries, according to Coquitlam RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Alexa Hodgins.
'Extremely chaotic' crime spree ensues
The car dealership robbery began a multi-jurisdictional effort to apprehend the suspects, who fled in a stolen vehicle from the PoCo dealership.
Armed officers searched vehicles at the intersection of Lougheed Highway (7) and Shaughnessy Street before eventually chasing the suspects through Coquitlam, which included an exchange of gunfire.
According to witness video provided to the Tri-City News, a black sedan was seen fleeing from at least 10 police cruisers at Highway 7's intersection with Pitt River Road.
The stolen vehicle ultimately crashed on Highway 1 just before the King Edward Street overpass. One of the suspects tried to flee on foot, but was found and arrested by officers in pursuit.
A victim suffered minor injuries after their vehicle was carjacked by a second suspect, who then fled to Surrey.
The suspect was subsequently arrested by officers in that city.
"This was an extremely chaotic, fast-moving and dynamic response to an extremely brazen and violent incident that happened in the middle of the afternoon in an extremely busy area," explained Insp. Darren Carr during a news conference today (Nov. 23).
Two suspects are still at large and it's not known if they were injured at any point during the pursuit.
It's also not clear, as of this publication (Nov. 23), of what happened to the vehicle the suspects arrived in at the PoCo dealership.
Known to police
Insp. Carr confirmed that the two suspects in Coquitlam RCMP custody are known to police.
Base on an early analysis, links to gang activity are possible, but it's still too early in the investigation, Insp. Carr said.
"That's something we're always looking at whenever there's a use of violence, whether there's a connection to organized crime or the Lower Mainland gang conflict."
With the number of violent acts that took place in the public eye during the Tuesday crime spree, Carr said police conducted a risk assessment before making the decision to pursue the robbers.
"If we are in a densely populated area and there's an exchange of gunfire, that's potentially a risky situation," he explained.
"Our members conduct a constant risk assessment in terms of the situation they encounter, and actions all of which are measured and appropriate to the circumstances ultimately from the perspective of protecting the public."
It's also not known if these are the same suspects that were involved in a "takeover-style robbery" on Sunday (Nov. 20) in Vancouver.
Two men, armed with guns, held up the popular Cafe du Soleil restaurant during brunch service, police stated, adding the suspects fled the area down Commercial Drive south to East 1st Avenue and continued on Boundary Road to Burnaby.
"We are communicating with other agencies to determine if or what other offences they may have been engaged in, and that's certainly part of our investigation," said Carr.
Mounties are still asking for the public's help in providing more witnesses statements and video footage.
While officers have already obtained several surveillance footage, descriptions of the suspects at large are too vague to be released publicly. All of them were wearing masks, police say.
Carr added there's potential that "more than one vehicle" was involved in the offence, and it's important that the case has accurate information.
Anyone with more information or video of the incidents today is encouraged to call Coquitlam RCMP at 604-945-1550 and quote file-number 2022-30931.
- with files from Diane Strandberg, Tri-City News, and Brendan Kergin, Vancouver Is Awesome