The suspects, identified by police as Damien Sanderson, 31, and Myles Sanderson, 30, remained at large Monday afternoon, more than 24 hours after authorities received reports early Sunday morning of people being stabbed at the James Smith Cree Nation and in the nearby village of Weldon.
The two men, described by police as armed and dangerous, may be in Regina, Saskatchewan’s capital, authorities said. Police are investigating the relationship between the two suspects and the reasons they may have attacked 28 people in at least 13 locations.
At least 10 dead, 15 injured in Saskatchewan stabbings; 2 suspects at large
Myles Sanderson was charged with three counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder. Damien Sanderson was charged with one count of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder. Both were charged with breaking and entering, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) said more charges are likely.
In a short address from Ottawa, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the attacks “shocking and heartbreaking.”
“This kind of violence or any kind of violence has no place in our country,” he said.
Authorities are closely monitoring the situation, Trudeau said, and he asked residents to call 911 if they have any information about the suspects.
“Saskatchewanians and Canadians will do what we always do in times of difficulty and anguish: We’ll be there for each other,” he added.
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Rhonda Blackmore, assistant commissioner of the Saskatchewan RCMP, said in a statement Monday that hundreds of police staffers were involved in the effort to find and arrest whoever is “responsible for this tragedy and to ensure your safety.”
As of Monday afternoon, authorities were asking for the public’s assistance in locating the suspect. Blackmore’s news release urged people to report information about the Sandersons, and the Regina Police Chief Evan Bray said earlier that authorities “are confident that someone out there knows the whereabouts of these two.”
“To those of you who have lost a loved one, our hearts ache and break for you, Blackmore said in a video later in the day. “I hope that you can find some comfort in the days ahead as you deal with your grief.”
By Monday afternoon, authorities had yet to release the names of those killed, though they said details would be announced later in the day.
James Smith Cree Nation members posted on social media and told The Washington Post that the community’s leadership asked them not to speak to the news media.
The investigation began about 5:40 a.m. local time Sunday, when police received reports of people being stabbed at the James Smith Cree Nation and Weldon. Authorities then sent a dangerous-persons alert at about 7:12 a.m., urging people in the area to seek shelter and warning that the two men were “armed and dangerous.” The alert was later expanded to the provinces of Manitoba and Alberta.
The men were believed to be traveling in a black Nissan Rogue crossover SUV after being spotted in Regina, about 200 miles to the south, shortly before midday Sunday, authorities said. They later said that the men may have changed their vehicle, and that their direction of travel was unknown.
In May, Myles Sanderson was listed as “unlawfully at large” by Saskatchewan CrimeStoppers — a community initiative designed to enlist public help to solve crimes and missing person cases — but without any detail about what he’d been accused of.
According to the Canadian Broadcast Corporation, one of the them, Myles Sanderson, had served a nearly five-year prison sentence for assault, robbery and mischief. He was paroled, then disappeared in May. Authorities have searched for him since.
The attacks have stunned leaders in Canada, where incidents of mass violence are relatively uncommon. In his Monday address, Trudeau said all flags at federal buildings have been lowered to half-staff.
In a Twitter thread on Sunday, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe thanked police for their efforts and acknowledged “the pain and loss caused by this senseless violence.”
There are no words to adequately describe the pain and loss caused by this senseless violence.
All of Saskatchewan grieves with the victims and their families.
— Scott Moe (@PremierScottMoe) September 4, 2022
The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations, which represents 74 First Nations in Saskatchewan province, offered condolences to the families of the victims in a statement Sunday.
“The FSIN Executive sends our deepest condolences and offers a message of solidarity with the people of James Smith Cree Nation after the unspeakable violence that claimed the lives of innocent people. Our hearts break for all those impacted,” the statement said.
While Indigenous people account for about 5 percent of Canada’s population, they are overrepresented among victims of violence in the country, according to official data. From 2015 to 2020, the rate of homicides involving an Indigenous victim was six times higher than the rate of homicides involving non-Indigenous victims.
As authorities tried to locate the suspects, questions remained unanswered about the motivations for the assaults.
Blackmore, of the RCMP, said Sunday evening that it appeared that some of the victims at 13 crime scenes “may have been targeted, and some may be random.”
“So to speak to a motive would be extremely difficult at this time,” she said at a Sunday news conference.
The rampage is one of the deadliest attacks in Canada since a mass shooting in Nova Scotia in 2020 that left 22 dead. That killing sparked a national investigation into how the gunman evaded police for more than 12 hours as he continued his rampage across the province.
Amanda Coletta contributed to this report.