REGINA, Saskatchewan — A series of stabbings at an Indigenous community and at another town nearby in Saskatchewan left 10 people dead and 15 wounded, Canadian police said Sunday as they searched across the expansive province for two suspects.
Police said that the stabbings occurred in several locations across the James Smith Cree Nation as well as in Weldon northeast of Saskatoon.
Rhonda Blackmore is the Saskatchewan Assistant Commissioner for the RCMP. She said that some victims were targeted by suspects, but others seem to have been randomly attacked. She couldn’t provide a motive.
“It is horrific what has occurred in our province today,” Blackmore said, adding there were 13 crime scenes where either deceased or injured people were found.
It was one of the worst mass shootings ever recorded in Canadian history. In 2020, a man dressed as a policeman shot 22 Canadians and then set fire to their houses. In 2019, ten pedestrians were killed by a man who used his van in Toronto. However, mass murders are rarer in Canada than they are in the United States.
Blackmore stated that police received reports of the stabbing attacks on First Nation communities before 6 AM. The stabbings continued and more victims were reported. By midday, police had issued an advisory that they had spotted a car carrying the suspects in Regina. This is about 335km (208 mi) from the area where the attacks occurred.
The last thing police knew was that the suspects could be seen around lunchtime. Since then, there have not been any sightings.
Evan Bray from Regina Police stated late Sunday that the suspects may still be in Regina. He urged Regina residents to keep an eye out for alerts and report any missing information.
According to Canadian police, multiple victims were found dead at 13 sites in Saskatchewan.
“If in the Regina area, take precautions & consider sheltering in place. Don’t leave a safe area. DO NOT APPROACH suspicious persons. Don’t pick up hitchhikers. Report suspicious persons, emergencies or info to 9-1-1. Do not disclose police locations,” the RCMP said in a message on Twitter.
Damien Sanderson (31) and Myles Sanderson (30) were the suspects. Saskatchewan Crime Stoppers issued a wanted list last May that included Myles, writing that he was “unlawfully at large.”
Doreen, a grandmother of 89 from Weldon, claimed that her daughter and she believed they had seen one of the suspects. A car drove past her house as Doreen was enjoying coffee on her porch in the early morning. Lees stated that the man who approached them said he was injured and required help.
Lees stated that the man fled after Lees, her daughter who had said she’d call for help.
“He wouldn’t show his face. The jacket he wore over his face covered him in was quite large. 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.”
She said the man was by himself and “kind of a little wobbly.”
“I followed him a little ways to see if he was going to be OK. My daughter said ‘Don’t follow him, get back here.’”
Weldon residents identified Wes Petterson as one of the victims. Ruby Works described the 77 year-old widower as a uncle.
“I collapsed and hit the ground. I’ve known him since I was just a little girl,″ she said, describing the moment she heard the news. She stated that he was devoted to his cats and proud of the Saskatoon-berry jam he made. He also helped many people in his neighborhood.
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“He didn’t do anything. He didn’t deserve this. He was a good, kind hearted man,″ said Works.
She stated that the event shaken an area where sirens can be heard only rarely.
“No one in this town is ever going to sleep again. They’re going to be terrified to open their door,″ she said
Robert Rush, a Weldon resident described the victim as gentle widowed man in 70s.
“He wouldn’t hurt a fly,″ he said.
Rush said Petterson’s adult grandson was in the basement at the time and phoned police.
The Weldon Christian Tabernacle church began its regular Sunday services by offering a prayer for the victims and their families.
The James Smith Cree Nation was a convenience store, which also doubles as a station, that became a meeting place for members of the community. They exchanged tears and hugs.
A sign on the door said: “Due to safety concerns with our community we will remain closed until further notice.”
Three of the communities making up the James Smith Cree Nation are represented by elected leaders. They include the Chakastaypasin Band (and the Peter Chapman Band).
Chakastaypasin Chief Calvin Sanderson said he’d left his phone off on Sunday morning and only learned of the tragic events when community members came to his door to check on him. The two suspects are not his relatives.
Everyone’s been affected, he said.
“They were our relatives, friends. Mostly we’re all related here, so it’s pretty hard,″ Sanderson said. “It’s pretty horrific.”
Two emergency operation centers were established in the emergency declaration released by Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations.
Rhonda Blackmore is the assistant commissioner. Regina Police Chief Evan Bray talks during a press conference at Regina Police Headquarters, Saskatchewan. This was held on Sunday Sept. 4, 2022.
Michael Bell/The Canadian Press via AP
“This is the destruction we face when harmful illegal drugs invade our communities, and we demand all authorities to take direction from the Chiefs and Councils and their membership to create safer and healthier communities for our people,” said Chief Bobby Cameron of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations.
The search for suspects was carried out as fans descended on Regina for a sold out annual Labor Day game between the Canadian Football League’s Saskatchewan Roughriders and Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
The Regina Police Service said in a news release that with the help of Mounties, it was working on several fronts to locate and arrest the suspects and had “deployed additional resources for public safety throughout the city, including the football game at Mosaic Stadium.″
Melfort, Saskatchewan RCMP issued the alert at 7 a.m., but it was later extended to include Alberta and Manitoba, since two of the suspects remained in hiding.
Saskatchewan Health Authority stated that multiple patients were being managed at various sites.
“A call for additional staff was issued to respond to the influx of casualties,” authority spokeswoman Anne Linemann said in an email.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a statement he was “shocked and devastated by the horrific attacks.”
“As Canadians, we mourn with everyone affected by this tragic violence, and with the people of Saskatchewan,” Trudeau said.
Although mass killings and mass stabbings tend to be more common than fatal mass stabbings, they have occurred all over the globe. In 2014, 29 people were slashed and stabbed to death at a train station in China’s southwestern city of Kunming. Nineteen people were killed in a stabbing incident that occurred at Sagamihara (Japan) for the mentally impaired. Eight people were killed by three attackers in an attack on the London Bridge a year later.
—Rob Gillies, an Associated Press journalist from Toronto contributed to the report
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