Canadian stabbing suspect found dead after 10 killed; brother at large

REUTERS/David Stobbe
The moon rises behind a grain elevator as police conducted a manhunt, after multiple people were killed and injured in a stabbing spree in Weldon, Saskatchewan, Canada. September 4, 2022.

One of the two men suspected of a stabbing rampage in Canada that killed at least 10 people and injured 18 in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan was found dead Monday, police said, as the country reeled from one of its deadliest cases of mass violence.

The attack began Sunday morning with reports of several stabbings at the James Smith Cree Nation, an Indigenous community roughly 200 miles north of Regina, the provincial capital. By the end of the day, police said they were investigating at least 13 crime scenes.

On Monday afternoon, authorities confirmed that the body of Damien Sanderson, 31, had been found that morning during a search of the James Smith Cree Nation.

The second suspect, his brother Myles Sanderson, remained at large more than 24 hours after the authorities first received reports of people being stabbed at the James Smith Cree Nation and in the nearby village of Weldon, tightknit communities where some residents said the attacks had spurred them to lock their doors for the first time.

It was not clear who may have injured Damien Sanderson, police said, but the fatal wounds did not appear to be self-inflicted. A coroner’s office will determine the cause of death, Rhonda Blackmore, assistant commissioner of the Saskatchewan Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), said at a Monday afternoon news conference. She said she did not know whether Myles Sanderson had contributed to his brother’s death.

Myles Sanderson, 30, whom police described as armed and dangerous Monday afternoon, may be in Regina, according to that city’s police chief, Evan Bray. At a news conference Monday afternoon, Bray and Blackmore said they have reason to believe he is injured and may seek medical help.

Myles Sanderson was charged earlier Monday with three counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder. Damien Sanderson was charged with one count of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder. Both were charged with breaking and entering, and the RCMP said more charges are likely.

Police are investigating the reasons they may have attacked 28 people in the prairie province.

In a short address from Ottawa, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the attacks “shocking and heartbreaking.”

“This kind of violence or any kind of violence has no place in our country,” he said.

Authorities are closely monitoring the situation, Trudeau said, and he asked residents to call 911 if they have any information about the suspects.

“Saskatchewanians and Canadians will do what we always do in times of difficulty and anguish: We’ll be there for each other,” he added.

Blackmore said in a statement Monday that hundreds of police staffers were involved in the effort to find and arrest whoever is “responsible for this tragedy and to ensure your safety.”

“To those of you who have lost a loved one, our hearts ache and break for you,” Blackmore said in a video earlier in the day. “I hope that you can find some comfort in the days ahead as you deal with your grief.”

By Monday evening, authorities had yet to release the names of those killed.

The Saskatchewan Health Authority said Monday it admitted 17 patients Sunday who were injured in the attacks. Four had been discharged and 13 remained in the hospital, including four in critical condition. It said none of its staff has been injured in the attacks.

James Smith Cree Nation members posted on social media and told The Washington Post that the community’s leadership asked them not to speak to the news media.

The investigation began about 5:40 a.m. local time Sunday, when police received reports of people being stabbed at the James Smith Cree Nation and in Weldon. Authorities then sent a dangerous-persons alert at about 7:12 a.m., urging people in the area to seek shelter and warning that the two men were “armed and dangerous.” The alert was later expanded to the provinces of Manitoba and Alberta.

Authorities were looking for a black Nissan Rogue crossover SUV that Myles Sanderson may have driven to Regina shortly before midday Sunday. They later said that he may have changed their vehicle, and that their direction of travel was unknown.

Police have alerted the Canadian Border Services Agency of Myles Sanderson’s status.

“He does have an extensive and lengthy criminal record,” Blackmore said.

In May, Myles Sanderson was listed as “unlawfully at large” by Saskatchewan CrimeStoppers, a community initiative designed to enlist public help to solve crimes and missing person cases. It said his last known location was in Saskatoon and did not detail why he was wanted.

According to the Canadian Broadcast Corporation, police in Saskatoon said Myles Sanderson had served a nearly five-year prison sentence for assault, robbery and mischief. He was given a statutory release, then disappeared in May. Authorities have searched for him since.

Saskatoon police did not respond to a request for comment from The Post.

Mass killings are uncommon in Canada relative to the neighboring United States. This attack was the deadliest since a mass shooting in 2020, when a gunman posing as a police officer rampaged across Nova Scotia over two weekend days, setting structures ablaze and killing 22 people, including a RCMP officer, in Canada’s deadliest mass shooting. A public inquiry is probing the police response to the attack.

Other mass killings in recent years have also rocked the nation. In 2018, a man rammed a rental van down a major Toronto thoroughfare, killing 10 people. The year before, a man armed with a semiautomatic weapon and pistol opened fire on 46 people gathered for evening prayers at a Quebec City mosque, killing half a dozen people and severely injuring others.

In his Monday address, Trudeau said all flags at federal buildings have been lowered to half-staff.

In a Twitter thread Sunday, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe thanked police for their efforts and acknowledged “the pain and loss caused by this senseless violence.”

The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN), which represents 74 First Nations in Saskatchewan, offered condolences to the families of the victims in a statement Sunday.

“The FSIN Executive sends our deepest condolences and offers a message of solidarity with the people of James Smith Cree Nation after the unspeakable violence that claimed the lives of innocent people. Our hearts break for all those impacted,” the statement said.

While Indigenous people account for about 5% of Canada’s population, they are overrepresented among victims of violence in the country, according to official data. From 2015 to 2020, the rate of homicides involving an Indigenous victim was six times higher than the rate of homicides involving non-Indigenous victims.

As authorities searched, questions remained unanswered about the motivations for the assaults.

Blackmore, of the RCMP, said Sunday evening that it appeared that some of the victims at 13 crime scenes “may have been targeted, and some may be random.”

“So to speak to a motive would be extremely difficult at this time,” she said at a Sunday news conference. On Monday, she said it was still unclear what sparked the attack.

At the University of Regina on Monday, flags were lowered to half-staff and mental health support services were extended to students and staffers.

“I know I speak on behalf of the entire University community as I express deep condolences to the families, friends, and communities of those affected,” university President Jeff Keshen wrote in a Facebook post. “As a community, we feel a collective pain.”

The university on Sunday posted an alert to students – and notified campus security – as the suspects remained at large. Responding to the university’s note, some parents expressed worry about their children’s security, while others offered their condolences and called for the perpetrators to be brought to justice.