Suspects still at large after stabbings in Canada kill 10

REGINA, Saskatchewan — A series of stabbings in a local community and another nearby Saskatchewan town left 10 people dead and 15 injured, Canadian police said Sunday as they searched the sprawling province for two suspects.

The stabbings took place at multiple locations on the James Smith Cree Nation and in the village of Weldon, northeast of Saskatoon, police said.

Rhonda Blackmore, RCMP assistant commissioner in Saskatchewan, said some of the victims appear to have been targeted by the suspects, but others appear to have been attacked randomly. She could not give a motive.

“It’s appalling what happened in our province today,” Blackmore said, adding that there were 13 crime scenes where people were found either dead or injured.

It is among the deadliest mass murders in Canadian history. The deadliest gun rampage in Canadian history occurred in 2020, when a man disguised as a police officer shot people in their homes and set fires in the province of Nova Scotia, killing 22 people. A man used a van to kill 10 pedestrians in Toronto in 2019. But mass killings are less common in Canada than in the United States.

Blackmore said police began receiving reports before 6 a.m. of stabbings in the First Nation community. More reports of attacks quickly followed, and by midday police had issued an alert that a vehicle said to be carrying the two suspects had been spotted in Regina, about 335 kilometers (208 miles) south of the communities where the stabbings took place .

Police said the last information they had from the public was that the suspects were seen there around noon. There have been no sightings since then.

Regina police Evan Bray said late Sunday he still believes the suspects are in the city of Regina and urged residents to follow up on leads and come forward with information if they have it.

Canadian police say multiple people have died at 13 locations in two Saskatchewan communities.

Associated Press

“If you are in the Regina area, please take precautions and consider sheltering in place. Do not leave a safe place. DO NOT APPROACH suspicious persons. Don’t pick up tourists. Report suspicious persons, emergencies or information to 9-1-1. Do not disclose locations to police,” the RCMP said in a statement on Twitter.

The suspects were identified as Damien Sanderson, 31, and Miles Sanderson, 30. Saskatchewan Crime Stoppers issued a wanted list last May that included Miles, saying he was “unlawfully at large.”

Doreen Lees, an 89-year-old grandmother from Weldon, said she and her daughter thought they saw one of the suspects when a car drove down her street early this morning while her daughter was drinking coffee on her deck. Lees said a man approached them and said he was injured and needed help.

But Lees said the man took off and ran after her daughter, who said she was going to 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 make it out,” she said. “He said his face was so hurt he couldn’t show it.”

She said the man was alone and “kind of a little hesitant.”

“I followed him around a bit to see if he was going to be okay. My daughter said “Don’t follow him, come back here.”

Weldon residents have identified one of the victims as Wes Peterson. Ruby Works said the 77-year-old widower was like an uncle to her.

“I collapsed and hit the ground. I’ve known him since I was a little girl,” she said, describing the moment she learned the news. She said he loved his cats, was proud of his homemade Saskatoon jam and often helped his neighbors.

Read more: Canada’s gun control law is a response to rising crime

“He didn’t do anything. He didn’t deserve this. He was a good, warm-hearted person,” Works said.

She said the event shook a community where the sounds of sirens are rarely heard.

“No one in this town will ever sleep again. They will be terrified to open their door,” she said

Weldon resident Robert Rush also described the victim as a gentle, widowed man in his 70s.

“He wouldn’t hurt a fly,” he said.

Rush said Peterson’s adult grandson was in the basement at the time and called police.

At the Weldon Christian Tabernacle Church, the congregation began its regular Sunday service by saying a special prayer for the victims and their families.

At the James Smith Cree Nation, a convenience store that doubles as a gas station became a gathering place for community members who greeted each other with tears and hugs.

A sign on the door read: “Due to concerns for the safety of our community, we will remain closed until further notice.”

Elected leaders of the three communities that make up the James Smith Cree Nation, including the Chakastaypasin Band and the Peter Chapman Band, declared a local state of emergency on Sunday.

Chakastaypasin Chief Calvin Sanderson said he left his phone switched off on Sunday morning and only learned of the tragic events when members of the community came to his door to check on him. He is not related to the two suspects.

All were affected, he said.

“They were our relatives, friends. Mostly, we’re all related here, so it’s pretty tough,” Sanderson said. “It’s pretty awful.”

The emergency declaration released by the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations said two emergency operations centers had been set up.

Assistant Commissioner Rhonda Blackmore, right, looks on as Regina Police Chief Evan Bray, left, speaks during a press conference at the Royal Canadian Mounted Police ‘F’ Division headquarters in Regina, Saskatchewan, on Sunday, September 4, 2022 .

Michael Bell/The Canadian Press via AP

“This is the devastation we face when harmful illegal drugs invade our communities and we demand that all authorities take direction from chiefs and councils and their members to create safer and healthier communities for our people,” said Chief Bobby Cameron of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations.

The search for the suspects came as fans descended on Regina for the sold-out annual Labor Day game between the Canadian Football League’s Saskatchewan Roughriders and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

The Regina Police Service said in a news release that, with the help of Mounties, it is working on several fronts to locate and arrest the suspects and has “deployed additional public safety resources throughout the city, including the football game at Mosaic Stadium.”

The alert, first issued by Melfort, Saskatchewan RCMP around 7 a.m., was extended hours later to cover Manitoba and Alberta as the two suspects remained at large.

Saskatchewan health officials said multiple patients were being treated at several locations.

“A call has been issued for additional personnel to respond to the influx of casualties,” authorities spokeswoman Ann Linnemann said in an email.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a statement that he was “shocked and devastated by the horrific attacks.”

“As Canadians, we grieve with all those affected by this tragic violence and with the people of Saskatchewan,” Trudeau said.

Fatal mass stabbings are less common than mass shootings, but they have occurred around the world. In 2014, 29 people were hacked and stabbed to death at a train station in the southwestern Chinese city of Kunming. In 2016, a mass stabbing at a facility for the mentally disabled in Sagamihara, Japan, left 19 people dead. A year later, three men killed eight people in a drive-by and knife attack on London Bridge.

Associated Press reporter Rob Gillis in Toronto contributed to this report

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