Suspect in Canada stabbing rampage dies after arrest

September 8, 2022

The last suspect in the stabbing spree in a remote western Canadian Indigenous community died after being arrested on 7 September at the end of a long manhunt, local media said.

Several broadcasters and newspapers, citing unnamed police sources, announced 32-year-old Myles Sanderson’s death, without giving details of the circumstances.

Police are scheduled to hold a news conference at 7:30 pm local time (0130 GMT).

Earlier, police said Sanderson had been “located and taken into police custody… at approximately 3:30 pm today.”

“There is no longer a risk to public safety relating to this investigation.”

An AFP reporter at the scene saw several police cars surrounding a white pickup along the side of a highway.

An hour before Sanderson’s arrest, police issued an alert about a man armed with a knife in a stolen white Chevy Avalanche nearby, making a link to the stabbing case and urging locals to shelter in place.

The truck in a ditch pointed to a dramatic end to a four-day manhunt across the vast Prairies region for Sanderson and his brother, believed to be responsible for the killings on 4 September.

It also offered relief to a nation distressed by one of modern Canada’s deadliest incidents of mass violence.

The manhunt had stretched across three provinces, and gone from Regina, Saskatchewan province’s capital 300 kms (185 miles) to the south, and then back to the James Smith Cree Nation — in response to reported sightings.

On 5 September, the search turned up the body of 31-year-old Damien Sanderson in a grassy field in the Cree community.

Authorities said he likely had been killed by his 32-year-old sibling, who remained a fugitive until his arrest near the town of Rosthern in Saskatchewan — about 100 kms west of where the stabbings occurred.

The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations said it was “relieved that Myles Sanderson is in police custody.”

Now, it added, “the healing process begins.”

‘Senseless act’

Myles Sanderson has a history of explosive violence that led to 59 past convictions, and is also wanted for breaching parole in May after serving part of a sentence for assault and robbery.

But with no known motive for the latest attacks, relatives of victims spoke out on 7 September about their “nightmare” and called for answers from authorities.

Mark Arcand said the killings that claimed the lives of his sister Bonnie Burns, 48, and her son Gregory Burns, 28, were a “horrible, senseless act.”

“We’re broken,” he said, describing emotions of anger and sadness. “It still feels like it’s a nightmare. It doesn’t feel real.”

“How did this happen to our family? Why did it happen? We have no answers,” he told a press conference. “We just know that our family members were killed in their own home, in their yard.”

Arcand recounted how his sister had rushed out of her house to help her son, who was bleeding out in their driveway after being stabbed several times.

“She was stabbed two times, and she died right beside him,” he said. “She was trying to protect her son.”

A neighbor ran over to try to stop the assailants, but she, too, was killed, he said.

The family and the community, Arcand added, has “a steep hill to climb, and we’re going to climb it together, united.”

The coroner has released the names of the deceased victims — six men and four women aged 23 to 78 years old.

All but one were members of the Cree community. The other was a widower who lived with his adult grandson in nearby Weldon.

Seventeen adults and one young teen were wounded in the attacks, police said. Among them was another son of Bonnie Burns who was slashed in the neck.

They also include a veteran, an addiction counsellor, and a mother of two who worked as a security guard at a local casino, say friends and families on social media.

“I lost a lot of family yesterday, bodies everywhere… some deceased and many others with severe knife wounds and bleeding,” Michael Brett Burns posted on Facebook. “It was a war zone.”

The attack was among modern Canada’s deadliest incidents of mass violence.

The nation has also witnessed in recent years a gunman masquerading as a policeman kill 22 people in Nova Scotia, another kill six worshippers at a Quebec City mosque, and a driver of a van kill 11 pedestrians in Toronto.

Police believe some of the victims in the 4 September rampage were targeted and others were attacked randomly.

Ten people remain hospitalized, including three in critical condition, according the Saskatchewan Health Authority. Seven others have been discharged.


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