A manhunt is underway for one of two brothers suspected in a mass stabbing that left 10 dead and 18 injured across multiple locations in Saskatchewan, Canada.
Investigators with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said while there were reports that suspect Myles Sanderson may have been spotted at James Smith Cree Nation on Tuesday, further investigation found he is not in the community. Police advised those in the area to seek shelter and not to approach him.
“As the whereabouts of Myles Sanderson remain unknown, the emergency alert is active for the entire province and we continue to urge the public to take appropriate precautions,” RCMP Saskatchewan tweeted Tuesday.
The potential sighting comes two days after a spree of violence that spanned 13 crime scenes in an Indigenous community and a nearby rural village, according to authorities.
Less than three hours after the first attack was reported, authorities identified the suspects as Sanderson, 30, and his brother Damien Sanderson.
On Monday morning, Damien Sanderson, 31, was found dead on the James Smith Cree Nation in a “heavily grassed area” near a house, police said.
His injuries were not believed to be self-inflicted, said Royal Canadian Mounted Police Assistant Commissioner Rhonda Blackmore, adding that the exact cause of death would be determined by the Saskatchewan coroner’s office.
Myles Sanderson is considered “armed and dangerous,” Blackmore said. He has a “lengthy criminal record” and had warrants out for his arrest before the stabbings, she said.
Police warned that Sanderson may also be injured and might try to seek medical attention, but did not provide further details on why they believe he might be hurt.
“We do have strong reason to believe that he has sustained some injuries. We’re not exactly sure what those injuries are,” Blackmore said.
Although still at large, Sanderson was charged with first-degree murder, attempted murder and breaking and entering into a residence.
As of Tuesday afternoon, the Saskatchewan Health Authority said in a statement it is treating 10 patients for injuries related to Sunday’s mass stabbing.
“Three patients are in critical condition, seven are in stable condition and, since Sunday, seven individuals have been discharged,” the agency said in a statement Tuesday, adding “SHA numbers may differ slightly from other agencies as we only track and report on admissions to hospitals.”
One of the victims was identified as Gloria Burns, a first responder, according to Reuters. She was responding to a crisis call when she was caught up in the violence and killed, her brother Darryl Burns told Reuters, though the agency didn’t say if the call was related to the stabbings.
“She was butchered,” her brother Ivor Burns said to Reuters.
Suspect had been released by parole board
Sanderson was previously granted statutory release by the Parole Board of Canada, according to a ruling made on February 1, 2022. The board said in the ruling that it didn’t believe Sanderson would present a risk to the public if released.
“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.
The decision did note his long criminal history and that he was assessed by a psychologist for a “moderate risk of violence.”
“Your criminal history is very concerning, including the use of violence and weapons related to your index offences, and your history of domestic violence which victimized family, including your children, and non-family,” the decision states.
“You are assessed as a moderate risk of violence and domestic violence by the psychologist. While your behaviour in custody has not demonstrated significant concerns, there have been some minor incidents. …”
According to the Parole Board of Canada, statutory release is a presumptive release by law that allows an offender to serve part of their sentence in the community under direct supervision. Statutory release aims to provide an offender with structure and support before the end of their sentence to improve their chances at successful reintegration into the community.
“This individual was on statutory release. Statutory release is a presumptive release by law. It is not parole and is not a Parole Board of Canada (PBC) decision,” the board told CNN in an emailed statement.
By Canadian law, the Correctional Service of Canada must release most offenders with supervision after they have served two-thirds of their sentence, if they have not already been granted parole. Offenders serving a life sentence are not eligible for statutory release.
On Monday, police in Saskatchewan confirmed Sanderson stopped meeting with his parole officer in May, in violation of his parole conditions.
Police haven’t established a motive
The suspects were believed to be traveling in a black Nissan Rogue with a Saskatchewan license plate that was reported seen with two people inside on Sunday in Regina, a city more than 300 kilometers (186 miles) south of the James Smith Cree Nation, according to police.
Regina Police Chief Evan Bray said that while the lead on the car was already “stale,” it remained the most recent reliable information police had.
Blackmore said police haven’t established a motive for the attacks, and there’s still no word on the type of weapon that was used. “It takes a significant amount of resources to process 13 crime scenes,” she said.
“There’s a lot of anxiety in our province right now in our communities and throughout the country,” Bray said. “And so we need to start the healing process and until we can make this arrest that isn’t going to happen.”
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the stabbings “horrific and heartbreaking.”
“I am shocked and devastated by the horrific attacks today in James Smith Cree Nation and Weldon, Saskatchewan, that claimed the lives of 10 people and injured many more,” Trudeau said in a statement.
Few details have been released about the brothers. Myles Sanderson, who remains at large, stands about 6 foot 1 inch tall and weighs 240 pounds, with brown hair and brown eyes.
It remains unclear if he was involved in the death of Damien Sanderson, according to police.
“It is an investigative avenue that we are following up on, but we can’t say that definitively at this point,” Blackmore said.
How the attacks unfolded
Investigators on Monday were trying to piece together the order in which the attacks took place. Blackmore said the stabbings didn’t necessarily happen in the order that the calls came in and it’s unclear if the brothers are suspected of carrying out the attacks at the same time.
The first stabbing was reported on the James Smith Cree Nation at 5:40 a.m. local time, and several more calls came in minutes later about stabbings at other locations, police said.
The James Smith Cree Nation has a population of around 3,400 people with about 1,800 members who live on the reservation, according to its website.
By 9:45 a.m., authorities reported victims in multiple locations, including one in the village of Weldon, and that some victims may have been attacked randomly.
In total, 28 people were wounded, including 10 who died.
Helicopter crews took some victims to the Royal University Hospital in Saskatoon while others were brought to local hospitals by ground ambulances. Police said there may be additional injured people who took themselves to the various hospitals.
The victims included men and women in different age groups, some of whom were apparently targeted while others may have been attacked randomly, according to Blackmore.
Police have not released information on victims’ conditions and identities, but said the youngest was in their early 20s.
About three hours after the first stabbing was reported, authorities identified the suspects as the Sanderson brothers and told the public that they were driving the black Nissan Rogue SUV.
Around noon, an alert was sent out reporting that the suspect vehicle had been seen by a driver on Arcola Avenue in Regina and told the public in Regina to shelter in place.
It wasn’t until the next morning that Damien Sanderson was found dead.