OTTAWA, Sept 7 ― Canadian police urged James Smith Cree Nation residents to stay indoors and on guard yesterday after reports of a possible sighting of the man wanted in a weekend stabbing spree that killed 10 people and shocked a country where mass violence is rare.
CBC News reported a heavy police presence on the indigenous reserve in Saskatchewan, about 320km (200 miles) south of the provincial capital of Regina, as the manhunt for the suspect entered its third day.
Hours later, however, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) said its “investigation has determined” that the suspect, Myles Sanderson, 30, “is not located in the community” of the reserve and that authorities were continuing to search for him.
Sanderson remained at large and possibly injured, police said after investigators on Monday found his accused accomplice and older brother, Damien Sanderson, 31, dead in a grassy area of the James Smith Cree Nation.
The pair are suspected of killing 10 people and wounding 18 others in a stabbing rampage Sunday in the James Smith Cree reserve and nearby village of Weldon, roiling an indigenous community of 3,400 people in one of the deadliest attacks in Canada's modern history.
On Monday evening, the Regina police chief, Evan Bray, said authorities were focusing their search for the surviving suspect in the provincial capital, based on their latest information.
Yesterday the manhunt's direction appeared to shift as the RCMP in Saskatchewan issued an emergency alert saying it was responding to the reports the suspect was spotted on the James Smith Cree reserve and warning residents to shelter in place.
The alert was updated about three hours later to say Sanderson was not found there, that his whereabouts remained unknown, and to urge the public “to take appropriate precautions.” At an event in Vancouver, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urged residents to heed local authorities. “All Canadians stand with the people of Saskatchewan at this time,” he added.
Authorities have offered no possible motive for the attacks. Police said some of the victims appeared to have been targeted, while others were apparently random. Some First Nation leaders have linked the killings to drug use but police have not identified drugs or alcohol as a factor.
The stabbings have caused “immeasurable stress and panic” in the community, leaders from a group of 74 First Nations in Saskatchewan said in a statement on Monday, pleading for members of the public to come forward with any relevant information.
Ivor Wayne Burns, a resident of the James Smith Cree Nation, said the Sanderson brothers belonged to First Nations communities and were under the influence of drugs at the time of the crimes.
Myles Sanderson was considered armed and dangerous, RCMP Assistant Commissioner Rhonda Blackmore said.
Sanderson has been wanted as a fugitive since May, when he stopped meeting with his parole officer following his release from serving a prison sentence for assault, robbery and other offenses, CBC News reported.
The CBC, citing Canadian Parole Board documents, reported Sanderson had amassed a criminal record of 59 convictions over two decades.
Asked at a Tuesday news briefing about reports that Sanderson had been unlawfully at large for several months, Trudeau told reporters, “We are very much still in crisis mode.” “Over the past two days, we've been focused on doing everything we can to keep people safe,” he added.
Police said they were investigating whether Sanderson might have also killed his brother and sustained injuries that might cause him to seek medical attention.
Few details were available about the victims, which included men and women spanning a wide range of ages.
People from the area said a mother of two, a 77-year-old widower and a first responder were among the victims. ― Reuters