Canada stabbing updates: 1 suspect found dead, 1 remains on run

Canadian authorities said some of the victims were targeted, but others appeared to have been chosen at random in an Indigenous community and a nearby town.

WELDON, Saskatchewan — One of the suspects in the stabbing deaths of 10 people in Canada’s Saskatchewan province has been found dead and his injuries are not self-inflicted, police said Monday as they continued the search for a second suspect.

Regina Police Chief Evan Bray said Damien Sanderson, 31, was found dead near the stab sites and they believe his brother Myles Sanderson, 30, is injured, on the run and likely in the provincial capital, Regina. It was the first time police had identified the two as brothers.

“His body was found outdoors in a heavily vegetated area near a house that was examined. We can confirm that he has visible injuries. It is not believed at this time that these injuries were self-inflicted,” said RCMP Commanding Officer Assistant Commissioner Rhonda Blackmore, adding that the exact cause of death is not yet certain.

The body’s discovery came on the second day of a massive manhunt for the couple, who are suspected of carrying out a series of stabbings in an indigenous community and a nearby town that also left 18 people injured. It was the deadliest attack in the country’s history.

Authorities said some of the victims were attacked and others appeared to have been chosen at random in the James Smith Cree Nation and in the Saskatchewan town of Weldon. They have not given a motive for the crimes – but a senior indigenous leader suspected drugs were involved somehow.

While they believe Myles is in Regina, about 335 kilometers (210 miles) south of where the stabbings took place, authorities in Canada’s three vast prairie provinces – which also include Manitoba and Alberta – have issued warnings and the US -Contacted border guards.

With a suspect still at large, communities terrorized by the crimes in working-class rural Saskatchewan, surrounded by farmland, have been gripped by fear. A witness who said he had lost family members described seeing people with bloody wounds scattered throughout the indigenous reserve.

“Nobody in this town will ever sleep again. They’ll be afraid to open their door,” said Ruby Works, who also lost a loved one and lives in Weldon, which has a population of about 200 and is home to many retirees.

As the Labor Day holiday weekend drew to a close Monday, police urged Saskatchewan residents returning from trips to check for suspicious activity near their homes before entering.

Arrest warrants were issued for the two suspects and both men each faced at least one count of murder and attempted murder. Further charges were expected.

The police gave little information about the men. Last May, Saskatchewan Crime Stoppers released a wanted list that included Myles Sanderson, writing that he was “unlawfully at large.”

While the manhunt continued, police also issued a provincial alert for suspects in a shooting on Witchekan Lake First Nation. Officials said the shooting was not thought to be connected to the stabbings, but such warnings were unusual and the fact that a second one came while authorities were already searching Saskatchewan for the stabbings was notable.

The stabbing was among the deadliest mass murders in Canada, where such crimes are less common than in the United States. The deadliest shooting spree in Canadian history occurred in 2020 when a man dressed as a police officer shot people in their homes and set fires across the province of Nova Scotia, killing 22 people. In 2019, a man driving a van killed ten pedestrians in Toronto.

Fatal stabbings are less common than mass shootings but have happened around the world. In 2014, 29 people were slashed and stabbed to death at a train station in the southwest Chinese city of Kunming. In 2016, a mass attack on a facility for the mentally disabled in Sagamihara, Japan, killed 19 people. A year later, three men killed eight people in a vehicle and knife attack at London Bridge.

Canadian police received their first call about a stabbing at 5:40 a.m. Sunday, and within minutes they heard from several others. In all, dead or wounded were found at 13 different locations on the sparsely populated reservation and town, Blackmore said. James Smith Cree Nation is approximately 30 kilometers (20 miles) from Weldon.

She could not provide a motive, but the head of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations suggested the stabbings could be drug-related.

“This is the destruction we face when harmful illegal drugs enter our communities and we urge 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.

As the manhunt dragged on, Regina Police Chief Evan Bray urged anyone with information to come forward.

Bray said they received a credible tip that they were in Regina, and he told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation that after a “very aggressive investigation,” police believe they are still in town.

The elected leaders of the three communities that make up the James Smith Cree Nation have declared a local state of emergency.

Chakastaypasin boss Calvin Sanderson – who does not appear to be related to the suspects – said everyone was affected by the tragic events.

“They were our relatives, friends,” Sanderson said of the victims. “It’s pretty awful.”

Among the 10 killed was Lana Head, former partner of Michael Brett Burns and mother of their two daughters.

“It’s sickening how many lives can be destroyed by prison sentences, drugs and alcohol,” Burns told the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network. “I’m hurt by all of this loss.”

Burns later posted on Facebook that there were dead and wounded throughout the reservation, making it look like “a war zone.”

“The look in her eyes could not express the pain and suffering of all those who were attacked,” he wrote.

Weldon residents have identified one of the dead as Wes Petterson, a retired widower who made him coffee every morning at the seniors’ center. He loved gardening, picking berries, canning and making jam and cakes, remembered William Works (47) and his mother Sharon Works (64).

“He’d give you the shirt off his back if he could,” said William Works, describing his neighbor as a “gentle old fellow” and “community first.”

Sharon Works was amazed: “I don’t understand why they would even target someone like him when he was just a poor, helpless little man, 100 pounds soaking wet. And he could hardly breathe because he had asthma and emphysema and everyone took care of him because he was like that. He took care of everyone else. And they took care of him.”

The couple said there is little crime in the rural town other than the occasional speeding ticket. They always left the door unlocked until the night of the murders.

“Even when I go into town, I don’t lock my door,” said Sharon Works. “But now I have to find my key to my house. I used to never lock the doors and nobody around here until that happened.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the flag would be flown at half-mast over the Canadian Parliament building in Ottawa in honor of the victims.

“Unfortunately, tragedies like this have become all too commonplace in recent years. Saskatchewan residents and Canadians will do what we always do in difficult times, we will be there for one another,” Trudeau said.

Gillies reported from Toronto. Canada stabbing updates: 1 suspect found dead, 1 remains on run

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