Canadian police scour the province for stabbing murder suspects
REGINA, Saskatchewan (AP) — Canadian police have searched the vast province of Saskatchewan for two suspects who allegedly stabbed 10 people to death in an Indigenous community and nearby town in one of the deadliest mass killings in the history of the country.
The suspects also injured 15 people in the series of stabbings that led James Smith’s Cree Nation to declare a state of emergency and rocked residents of the nearby village of Weldon.
“No one in this town will ever sleep again. They are going to be terrified to open their door,” said Weldon resident Ruby Works, who was close to one of the victims.
Police, meanwhile, said a vehicle carrying the two suspects was spotted in Regina, about 335 kilometers (208 miles) south of the communities where the stabbings took place.
Regina Police Chief Evan Bray said Sunday night they still believe the suspects are in Regina.
“If in the Regina area, take precautions and consider sheltering in place. Don’t leave a safe place. DO NOT APPROACH suspicious people. Do not pick up hitchhiking hikers. Report suspicious people, emergencies or information to 9-1-1. Do not release police locations,” RCMP said in a Twitter post.
The suspects have been identified as Damien Sanderson, 31, and Myles Sanderson, 30.
“It’s horrific what happened in our province today,” said Rhonda Blackmore, assistant commissioner for the RCMP in Saskatchewan, adding that there were 13 crime scenes where people were killed or injured. found.
Blackmore said some of the victims appear to have been targeted by the suspects, but others appear to have been randomly attacked.
She could not provide a motive, but the leader of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations made a statement suggesting the stabbings could be drug-related.
Elected leaders from the three communities that make up the James Smith Cree Nation, including the Chakastaypasin Band and the Peter Chapman Band, declared a local state of emergency and opened two emergency operations centres.
Chakastaypasin chief Calvin Sanderson – who is not related to the suspects – said everyone was affected by the tragic events.
“They were our parents, my friend,” Sanderson said of the victims. “It’s pretty awful.”
“This is the destruction we face when harmful illicit drugs invade our communities, and we call on all authorities to follow the direction of Chiefs and Councils and their members to create safer and healthier communities for our people,” said Chief Bobby Cameron of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations.
Among the 10 victims killed was Lana Head, who is the former girlfriend of Michael Brett Burns and the mother of their two daughters.
Burns told the Indigenous Peoples Television Network that “it’s crazy how prison, drugs and alcohol can destroy many lives,” he said. “I’m hurt for all this loss.”
Last May, Saskatchewan Crime Stoppers released a wanted list that included Myles Sanderson, writing that he was “illegally at large.”
It is one of the deadliest massacres in Canadian history. The deadliest gun rampage in Canadian history occurred in 2020 when a man disguised as a police officer shot people in their homes and set fires across the province of Nova Scotia. Scotland, killing 22 people. A man used a van to kill 10 pedestrians in Toronto in 2019. But massacres are less common in Canada than in the United States.
Lethal mass stabbings are rarer than mass shootings, but they have occurred around the world. In 2014, 29 people were slashed and stabbed to death at a train station in the city of Kunming in southwest China. In 2016, a massive knife attack at a facility for the mentally disabled in Sagamihara, Japan, left 19 people dead. A year later, three men kill eight people in a vehicle and attack with a knife at London Bridge.
Doreen Lees, an 89-year-old grandmother from Weldon, said she and her daughter thought they saw one of the suspects when a car pulled up her street early in the morning on Sunday while her daughter was having coffee on its terrace. Lees said a man approached them and said he was injured and needed help.
But Lees said the man left and ran after his daughter said she would call for help.
“He wouldn’t show his face. He had a big jacket over his face. We asked for his name and he kind of mumbled his name twice and we still couldn’t get it,” she said. “He said his face was so hurt he couldn’t show it.”
She said the man was lonely and “a little wonky”.
“I followed him for a bit to see if he was okay. My daughter said, ‘Don’t follow him, come back here.’
Weldon residents identified one of the victims as Wes Petterson. Ruby Works said the 77-year-old widower was like an uncle to her.
“I collapsed and hit the ground. I’ve known him since I was little,” she said, describing the moment she heard the news. She said he loved his cats, took pride in his homemade Saskatoon berry jam and frequently helped his neighbors.
” He did not do anything. He didn’t deserve this. He was a good and generous man,” Works said.
Weldon resident Robert Rush also described the victim as a gentle, widowed man in his 60s.
“He wouldn’t hurt a fly,” he said.
Rush said Petterson’s adult grandson was in the basement at the time and called police.
At the Weldon Christian Tabernacle Church, the congregation began its regular Sunday service by saying a special prayer for the victims and their families.
At James Smith Cree Nation, a convenience store that doubles as a gas station became a gathering place for community members, who greeted each other with tears and hugs.
A sign on the door read: “Due to safety concerns with our community, we will remain closed until further notice.”
The search for suspects was carried out as fans traveled to Regina for an annual sold-out Labor Day game between the Canadian Football League’s Saskatchewan Roughriders and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
The Regina Police Department said in a news release that with the assistance of the RCMP, it was working on multiple fronts to locate and apprehend the suspects and had “deployed additional public safety resources throughout the city, including the football match at Mosaic Stadium”.
The alert first issued by RCMP in Melfort, Saskatchewan at around 7 a.m. was extended hours later to cover Manitoba and Alberta with the two suspects still at large.
The Saskatchewan Health Authority said multiple patients were being treated at multiple sites.
“A call for additional personnel has been made to respond to the influx of injured people,” authorities spokeswoman Anne Linemann said in an email.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a statement that he was “shocked and devastated by the horrific attacks”.
“As Canadians, we mourn with all those affected by this tragic violence and with the people of Saskatchewan,” Trudeau said.
Associated Press reporter Rob Gillies in Toronto contributed to this report.
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