Published September 6, 2022

Possible sighting of stabbing suspect on Saskatchewan First Nation, RCMP say

RCMP have said 10 men and women were killed

By Mickey Djuric in Weldon

Mounties in Saskatchewan surrounded a home on the James Smith Cree Nation after a possible sighting Tuesday of a suspect in a series of deadly stabbings.

A notice sent through the provincial emergency alert system said investigators received a report that Myles Sanderson had been seen in the community, and advised residents in the area to seek shelter.

"Do not leave a secure location. Do not approach suspicious persons," the alert read.

By Tuesday afternoon, police were seen leaving the area. 

Sanderson is one of the accused in the stabbings over the weekend at several locations on the James Smith Cree Nation and nearby village of Weldon, northeast of Saskatoon. 

RCMP have said his brother, Damien Sanderson, 31, who had also been a suspect, was found dead Monday in a grassy area not far from one of the crime scenes. They said his injuries were not believed to be self-inflicted.

RCMP have said 10 men and women were killed, and 18 were injured in the attacks, not including the suspects.

The Saskatchewan First Nations Veterans Association confirmed the death of Earl Burns in a Facebook message, saying he was a veteran with the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry. 

His sister confirmed his death in a statement to news website paNow in Prince Albert. Deborah McLean told the outlet her brother died protecting his family and that his wife is in intensive care.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, speaking to reporters in Vancouver, promised federal help in the aftermath.

"People are traumatized, people are hurting, people are injured," Trudeau said.

"There are going to be many, many conversations about next steps and how we move forward."

Police had been searching a wide area, with alerts issued in Manitoba and Alberta as well. In Regina, a three-hour drive south of James Smith Cree Nation, police reported a possible sighting on the weekend of a vehicle the suspects had driven.

The broad search area left communities on edge.

Piapot First Nation, 45 kilometres northeast of Regina, urged residents to be vigilant.

"Do not let strangers inside your homes or answer the door for anyone you do not know. Please keep all windows and doors locked," community leaders wrote in a safety notice posted online Tuesday.

Leaders of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations issued an appeal to find Myles Sanderson, begging those with knowledge of his whereabouts to come forward to help end the manhunt without any more loss of life.

A former Mountie said the vast open spaces of the Prairies could complicate any manhunt.

"This is a huge area, and there's a whole lot of nothing," said retired RCMP officer Sherry Benson-Podolchuk. "There's a lot of places people can hide."

Benson-Podolchuk noted that police are monitoring roads going into and out of adjacent provinces.

"Suspects aren't going to go on the (main) roads. If they can take a side road or a gravel road or a dirt road somewhere, they will do that," Benson-Podolchuk said.

Parole documents show Myles Sanderson has a nearly two-decade-long criminal record and a propensity for violence when intoxicated.

“Your criminal history is very concerning, including the use of violence and weapons related to your index offences, and your history of domestic violence,” said the document obtained by The Canadian Press.

Sanderson received statutory release from prison in August 2021, but it was revoked about four months later because the board said he failed to communicate with his parole supervisor. 

In the document, the board said it decided to reinstate his statutory release with a reprimand, and said Sanderson "will not present an undue risk to society."

The Mounties have not said what motivated the attacks. Police believe some victims were targeted, but others were chosen at random. 

People in the region have rallied around the victims and the communities affected.

An online fundraising effort has begun for victims and their families in James Smith Cree Nation. It had raised more than $92,000 as of Tuesday morning.

A community garden organization near Prince Albert posted on social media that it is sending produce to the First Nation for wakes and other gatherings in the days ahead.

"We will be cleaning carrots, cucumbers and potatoes to send for the wakes. If you can help pick, peel or cut we will need a few extra hands please," read the post on Jessy's Garden Facebook page.

In nearby Melfort, Sask., on Monday night, the Mustangs Junior A hockey team held a moment of silence for the victims ahead of their pre-season game against the Nipawin Hawks.

On Tuesday, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe, First Nations leaders and other dignitaries held a moment of silence at the opening of a hockey complex on the Big River First Nation some 180 kilometres away from where the stabbings took place.  

"Those of you that have friends and family in the James Smith community or Weldon, or are impacted in any way, please know that all of this province's heart is with you and your family this weekend and the weeks and months ahead," Moe said.

Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations Vice-Chief David Pratt asked the crowd to acknowledge the "tremendous loss." 

"Let's think of those families, those people who are still in the hospital," he said. "We'll move forward together."

Banner image: Myles Sanderson, seen in a police handout photo, is described by police as six-foot-one and 240 pounds with black hair and brown eyes. Police say Sanderson, who has a violent criminal record and is considered dangerous, remains on the loose, but he may be injured. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Saskatchewan RCMP

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on Sept. 6, 2022. 

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