The manhunt continues for the prime suspect in a mass killing as a rural Indigenous community in Saskatchewan grapples with the aftermath of one of Canada’s deadliest stabbing sprees, which left 10 people dead.
Just before noon local time in James Smith Cree Nation, Saskatchewan, the RCMP sent out an emergency alert informing the community's residents to shelter in place because Myles Sanderson, 30, was in the area. Sanderson is the sole remaining suspect in the attack which left 10 people dead and 18 injured on Sunday. On Monday, Sanderson’s brother Damien Sanderson, 31, who was also a suspect, was found in the rural community.
But Tuesday afternoon, RCMP said Sanderson isn’t hiding in the area after all, and confirmed the search is ongoing.
The news follows an earlier emergency alert, sent out by RCMP, advising residents to remain at a secure location and not to approach the person or pick up hitchhikers.
"Investigators have received reports of a possible sighting of suspect Myles Sanderson in James Smith Cree Nation," it reads. "If in the area, seek immediate shelter/shelter in place."
The attacks across various locations in and around the rural communities of James Smith Cree Nation and the village of Weldon is one of the deadliest killing sprees in Canada’s history.
The RCMP, Canada’s federal police force, named two brothers as suspects: Damien Sanderson, 31, and Myles Sanderson, 30.
Damien’s body was found close to where the mass killings took place, in a grassy area of James Smith Cree Nation on Monday morning, bringing the death toll to 11. He had sustained wounds that didn’t seem self-inflicted, RCMP said. Myles is still at-large and faces three counts of first-degree murder as well as attempted murder and break and enter. More charges are expected, and it’s unclear whether Myles harmed his brother.
Damien had been charged with one count of first-degree murder.
“Myles is still at large and still considered to be armed and dangerous,” said Evan Bray, the chief of police for Regina, the capital city of Saskatchewan.
Police haven’t given a motive. Officers believe some victims were targeted, while others were attacked at random.
Myles Sanderson has been on the run from authorities since May after he missed several meetings with his parole officer, according to the RCMP. A parole board decision that was provided to VICE World News said Sanderson was released from prison in February, where he was serving a four-year sentence for assault. The decision outlines Sanderson’s long, violent criminal history including 59 convictions that stretch back almost two decades. Those crimes include multiple assault charges, assault with a weapon, resisting arrest, assaulting a police officer, and others.
Sanderson was serving an aggregate sentence for an extensive crime spree in 2017 that included breaking into his ex-girlfriend's home, threatening her and damaging the home and a vehicle outside, while her children hid in a bathtub. Sanderson fled the scene and a few days later threatened to kill an employee at a local store. Police were unable to find Sanderson after these two incidents.
Later he robbed a fast food restaurant by threatening someone else with a gun to commit the crime, while he watched from the outside. A few months later, in April 2018, he attacked two men with a fork before going outside and beating a man until he was unconscious. Finally, in June, he was arrested after being found in his “partner's residence.” He attempted to flee and eventually locked himself inside. He told the police they would have to kill him before he surrendered. He eventually turned himself in, but assaulted multiple officers during his arrest.
“You used a fork as a weapon and stabbed two people before assaulting another person outside until he lost consciousness,” reads the decision. “Some of your victims required medical treatment, while another victim moved out of her residence and has not returned due to her fear of you.”
The Parole Board decision states that Sanderson had several “factors from your background that may have contributed to your involvement in the criminal justice system.” The decision says Sanderson grew up “in an environment involving physical abuse, domestic violence, and instability.” He lived with multiple family members including his mother, father, and paternal grandparents. He’s described as having “an incomplete education and limited employment experience.” Sanderson told the board that drugs and alcohol played a role in his crimes and he began to use at the age of 14.
“Your regular use of cocaine, marijuana, and hard alcohol would make you ‘lose your mind’ and that you can be easily angered when drunk, but are a different person when sober,” it reads.
Sanderson was initially transferred to an Indigenous healing lodge in February 2021 and had his sentence suspended in August 2021. His suspension was lifted in November after the parole board learned he was living with his ex-spouse, which was against his parole conditions. He was re-released in February 2022 after being considered a "moderate risk of violence and domestic violence” if he maintained sobriety and continued with therapy. He was ordered to follow a treatment plan and not have contact with his children, his victims, and their families.
“It is the Board's opinion that you will not present an undue risk to society if released on statutory release and that your release will contribute to the protection of society by facilitating your reintegration into society as a law-abiding citizen,” the decision reads.
He went missing in May after not reporting to his parole officer.
According to Saskatchewan RCMP, Myles may be injured and could seek medical attention. He’s 6’1 and with brown hair and brown eyes.
Latest information obtained by police placed Myles in Regina but they expanded a dangerous person alert to the neighbouring provinces of Alberta and Manitoba as well.
Among the dead is Lana Head, a 49-year-old from James Smith Cree Nation. She leaves behind two daughters, Sable, 31, and Sage, 30, CBC reported. The broadcaster also identified Wes Petterson, 77, of Weldon, and 62-year-old first responder Gloria Burns. Burns’ siblings told CBC that she was killed while responding to an emergency during the string of stabbings.
Leaders of three Indigenous communities that make up James Smith Cree Nation called a local state of emergency on Sunday. Chakastaypasin Chief Calvin Sanderson said he learned of the attacks when community members showed up at his door to check on him.
“They were our relatives, friends. Mostly we’re all related here, so it’s pretty hard,” Sanderson told the Saskatoon StarPhoenix of the deceased. “It’s pretty horrific.”
James Smith Cree Nation has since asked for privacy following the attacks. But Assembly of First Nations National Chief RoseAnne Archibald shared a request for donations from the community, including food, disposable plates, and cutlery.
Meanwhile, Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations Chief Bobby Cameron appealed for help in locating Myles.
“The uncertainty continues to cause immeasurable stress and panic among our families, friends, and neighbours,” Cameron said. “They have already gone through enough. We must do everything we can to help end this tragedy without any more loss of life.”