Fears run high as Canadian police search for stabbing suspect

JAMES SMITH CREE FIRST NATION, Saskatchewan (AP) — Fears ran high on an Indigenous reservation in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan on Tuesday after police warned the suspect in a murderous knife rampage over the weekend could being nearby and that officers surrounded a house with firearms.

Police then sent out an alert saying it was a false alert and they had determined the suspect was not in the community, but people were left nervous with his whereabouts unknown and a provincial alert still in effect. .

Residents of the James Smith Cree First Nation reserve have been asked to stay indoors. An Associated Press reporter saw people running and screaming as police closed roads.

The fugitive’s brother and fellow suspect, Damien Sanderson, was found dead Monday near the stabbing sites. The police are investigating whether Myles Sanderson killed his brother. The brothers are accused of killing 10 people and injuring 18.

Leaders of the James Smith Cree Nation, where most of the stabbings took place, blamed the killings on drug and alcohol abuse rampant in the community, which they say was a legacy of the colonization of indigenous peoples.

James Smith Cree Nation resident Darryl Burns and his brother, Ivor Wayne Burns, said their sister, Gloria Lydia Burns, was a first responder who was killed while responding to a call. Burns said her 62-year-old sister was on a crisis response team.

“She phoned a house and she got caught up in the violence,” he said. “She was there to help. She was a heroine. »

He blamed drugs and pointed to colonization for rampant drug and alcohol use on reservations.

“We had a murder-suicide here three years ago. My granddaughter and her boyfriend. Last year we had a double homicide. This year we have 10 more who have died and all of them due to drugs and alcohol,” said Darryl Burns.

Ivor Wayne Burns also blamed drugs for his sister’s death and said the suspect brothers are not to be hated.

“We have to forgive them boys,” he said. “When you take hard drugs, when you take coke, and when you take heroin and crystal meth and those things, you’re unable to feel. You stab someone and you think it’s funny You stab them again and you laugh.

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Blackmore said police are still determining the motive, but the leader of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations echoes suggestions that the stabbings could be drug-related.

“This is the destruction we face when harmful illegal 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.

Blackmore said Myles Sanderson’s criminal record goes back years and includes violence.

He was released from prison in August 2021, but his release was then suspended in November because he lied about his ex-spouse and children living with him. At a hearing in February, the council overturned the suspension, while adding conditions to limit and monitor contact with the woman and her children.

Public Safety Minister Mendicino said the parole board told him there would be an investigation into his assessment of Myles Sanderson and his subsequent release.

“I want to know the reasons for the decision and I want to know if any mistakes were made during the process,” Mendicino said. “It has to be an independent review.”

“I am extremely concerned about what happened here,” he said.

The stabbing was one of the deadliest massacres in Canada, where such crimes are less common than in the United States. 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 New Brunswick province. -Scotland, killing 22 people. In 2019, a man used a van to kill 10 pedestrians in Toronto.

Lethal mass stabbings are rarer than mass shootings, but 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.

Saskatchewan police received their first call about a stabbing at 5:40 a.m. Sunday and, within minutes, heard of several more. In total, dead or injured people were found at 13 different locations on the sparsely populated reservation and in the city, Blackmore said. The James Smith Cree Nation is approximately 30 kilometers (20 miles) from Weldon.

Weldon residents have identified one of the dead as Wes Petterson, a retired widower who made his coffee every morning at the aged care centre. He enjoyed gardening, picking berries, canning and making jam and cakes, remember William Works, 47, and his mother, Sharon Works, 64.

“He would give you the shirt off his back if he could,” said William Works, describing his neighbor as a “nice old man” and “community first.”

Sharon Works was baffled: “I don’t understand why they would target someone like him anyway, because he was just a poor helpless little man, 100 pounds drenched. And he could barely breathe because he had asthma and emphysema and everyone cared about him because he was like that. He cared about everyone. And they cared about him.

Evan Bray, the police chief for the provincial capital of Regina, said as recently as Monday that police believe Sanderson was in Regina, but said on Tuesday they had received information that leads them to believe he is not is perhaps more in the city.

“Although we don’t know where he is, we are still looking not only in the city of Regina, but also in the province,” Bray said.


Gillies reported from Toronto.

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