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RCMP say suspect in Saskatchewan stabbing rampage found dead, brother still at large

Police say he had visible injuries that were not self-inflicted

By Mickey Djuric in Weldon, Saskatchewan, Canada

One of two brothers sought following a stabbing rampage in Saskatchewan was found dead in a grassy field not far from where 10 others lost their lives and many more were injured on the weekend.

Meanwhile, police said the other brother who has a violent criminal record and considered dangerous, remained on the loose, but he may be injured. 

Police said the body of Damien Sanderson, 31, was found Monday morning on the James Smith Cree Nation.

Police had been looking for him and his brother Myles Sanderson, 30, since the attacks early Sunday at 13 locations in and around the First Nation and the nearby village of Weldon, northeast of Saskatoon. 

Police believe some of the victims were targeted and others were chosen at random. No motive for the attacks has been given.

Rhonda Blackmore, the assistant RCMP commissioner in charge of Saskatchewan, told reporters Damien Sanderson’s body was found in an area not far from one of the crime scenes.

“He has visible injuries. His injuries are not believed to be self-inflicted,” she said. 

Blackmore said Myles Sanderson has a lengthy criminal record for property crimes and violence against people. He has been charged with multiple counts of first-degree murder, attempted murder and break and enter in the stabbings. 

“Even if he is injured, it doesn’t mean he is not still dangerous,” Blackmore said.

Asked if Myles Sanderson was responsible for his brother’s death, Blackmore said police are investigating that possibility, but ‘”we can’t say that definitively at this point in time.”

Since Sunday morning, police have been scouring Regina, a three-hour drive south, following a report the two suspects had been seen in the reported getaway vehicle, a black Nissan Rogue. 

Regina Police Chief Evan Bray said the hunt continues in the Saskatchewan capital, even with the one brother found dead. 

“The most recent, reliable information we have says that (Myles) is in Regina or was in Regina,” said Bray.  “(The information) is a day old, we acknowledge that. But we have nothing that can tell us differently.

“Keep in mind, this is eyewitness information that provided details on seeing the car (and) confirming the plate.” 

RCMP said 18 men and women were injured in the attacks, not including Myles Sanderson. None were children.

The Saskatchewan Health Authority said 17 went to various hospitals. Four were in critical condition Monday afternoon, nine were in stable condition and four had been released.

James Smith Cree Nation was closed to the public amid heavy police presence and some reporters were asked to leave. 

Eleanore Sunchild, a prominent Saskatchewan lawyer, whose daughters have connections to the reserve, said she’s been talking with community members who are shocked, horrified and deep in grief. She said there is a feeling of helplessness.

“I feel an immense grief for the community,” Sunchild said.

Many victims were older people who held knowledge of history and tradition and Sunchild said when an elder dies, “a library dies.”

She has worked with thousands of residential school survivors and saw the trauma the institutions created through physical and sexual abuse. She said there needs to be counsellors and mental health supports immediately provided to communities.

Sunchild added that people are also worried about a backlash against Indigenous people. But, she said, what the tragedy should show is that communities need help and long-term investment in healing.

Sunchild said her heart breaks thinking of the community trying to plan 10 funerals.

The streets in Weldon were all but deserted Monday, with doors closed and curtains drawn, as police patrolled the area. Many residents declined media interviews. 

Ruby Works stopped to place flowers outside the home of one victim identified by several residents as 77-year-old Wes Petterson. 

Police have not said why they believe the remaining fugitive is injured. But Doreen Lees, an 89-year-old resident from Weldon, said she and her daughter thought they saw one of the suspects when a car came barrelling down her street early Sunday.  

Lees said a man approached them and said he was hurt and needed help, but he took off when her daughter said she would call for help. 

“He wouldn’t show his face. He had a big jacket over his face. We asked his name and he kind of mumbled his name twice and we still couldn’t get it,” she said. “He said his face was injured so bad he couldn’t show it.” 

Lees said she was concerned and started to follow him, but her daughter told her to come back to the house. 

The stabbings have made headlines around the world and words of support have poured in from every quarter. 

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe, in a video posted to social media, said the province has augmented police with extra security, including protections at hospitals where some victims were being treated. 

“Yesterday’s attacks were horrific beyond anything that any of us could ever imagine,” said Moe. 

“There are no words to adequately describe the pain and loss suffered by the victims’ families — this loss caused by these evil, vicious, senseless attacks. 

“All of Saskatchewan grieves with you.” 

His office has said flags at provincial government buildings will be lowered to half-mast one day for each person killed.  

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters in Ottawa he has spoken to James Smith chiefs and with Moe. 

“The federal government will be there with the resources necessary right now, in this time of crisis, but also will continue to work as partners in the weeks, months, and years to come through grieving and healing,” he said.  

He said flags will also fly at half-mast at federal government buildings in Saskatchewan and at the Peace Tower in Ottawa.  

“Sadly over these past years, tragedies like these have become all too commonplace,” he added. 

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

Banner image: Investigators with protective equipment enter a house in a crime scene in Weldon, Sask., Sunday, Sept. 4, 2022. Saskatchewan RCMP has confirmed that there are 10 dead while 15 are injured following the stabbings that occurred at James Smith Cree Nation and Weldon in Saskatchewan. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Heywood Yu

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 5, 2022