(Melfort) RCMP say the man accused of stabbing multiple people in Saskatchewan last year was selling drugs in the Indigenous community in the days leading up to his assaults, which left 11 people dead and 18 injured.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) released details on Thursday of what happened in the James Smith Cree community and the nearby village of Weldon on September 4. Myles Sanderson, the 32-year-old man who was charged with the assaults, died after his arrest a few days later.
Superintendent Joshua Graham, the officer in charge of major crimes, said Sanderson and his brother Damien arrived on September 1 at James Smith to sell drugs there.
Throughout their stay in the Cree community, they assaulted residents and stole a vehicle. The day before the massacre, Damien Sanderson was telling patrons at a nearby bar that they had a “mission to do” and that “people would be hearing about it in the next few hours.”
Damien Sanderson, however, was one of the first people killed on the morning of the carnage.
After the Sanderson brothers assaulted a man in his home with scissors, they got into a fight inside a vehicle. Damien, injured, got out of the vehicle and fled in a wooded area along the road. His body was found there the next day.
Myles Sanderson continued to visit various homes in the community, assaulting some people and killing others.
Assistant Commissioner Rhonda Blackmore, commander of the RCMP in Saskatchewan, said the federal police investigation into the carnage was incredibly complex, and large-scale. She said she understands people have multiple questions, but argued Thursday that “some of those answers, unfortunately, may never be known.”
Ms. Blackmore said the RCMP examined 42 different crime scenes, including buildings and vehicles. Investigators also seized approximately 700 exhibits and interviewed over 250 witnesses.
A handful of people from the community attended the RCMP presentation in Melfort on Thursday, but the victims and their families had received the update on Wednesday.
The RCMP maintains that this update will not affect the two coroner’s inquests scheduled for early next year.
One of these investigations should focus on the murders, while the other should look into the death of the suspect. Police say Sanderson fell into medical distress shortly after his arrest.
An independent investigation is also being conducted by Saskatoon police and the province’s Serious Incident Response Team.
The RCMP had previously released details of the deadly rampage in the James Smith Cree community, located about 170 km northeast of Saskatoon.
Four “dangerous person” alerts were issued by 10 a.m. on September 4, stating that there had been multiple casualties and giving descriptions of the suspects and the vehicle they were believed to be traveling in.
Later that day, the RCMP announced that several people were dead or injured at 13 different locations.
The whole province was on high alert and police remained on the lookout for days as Sanderson was reported from Regina to James Smith.
Finally, on September 7, the suspect’s vehicle hit a ditch and slammed into some trees. Sanderson was arrested, but soon after fell into medical distress and died.
This case has amplified calls for more Indigenous police forces across the country. Federal Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino then signed an agreement with the Prince Albert Grand Council, which includes James Smith’s Cree Nation, to explore new ways to improve the safety of certain Indigenous communities in Saskatchewan.