Canadian police are looking for suspects after 10 people were stabbed to death

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Canadian police searched for two men suspected of stabbing 10 people to death in an Indigenous community and nearby town on Monday as the massive manhunt following one of the country’s deadliest massacres entered on its second day.

Authorities said some of the victims were targeted and others appeared to have been randomly selected from a series of attacks on James Smith’s Cree Nation and the town of Weldon in the province of Saskatchewan. They gave no motive for the crimes, which also left 15 injured – but a senior Indigenous leader suggested drugs were somehow involved.

Police believe the suspects were last seen around noon Sunday in the provincial capital of Regina, about 335 kilometers (210 miles) south of where the stabbings took place. Authorities issued warnings for Manitoba and Alberta – provinces on opposite sides of Saskatchewan – to also be on high alert, and terror gripped many communities.

“No one in this town will ever sleep again. They are going to be terrified to open their door,” said Weldon resident Ruby Works, who was close to one of the victims.

The suspects were identified as Damien Sanderson, 31, and Myles Sanderson, 30, but police gave few details about them. Last May, Saskatchewan Crime Stoppers released a wanted list that included Myles Sanderson, writing that he was “illegally at large.”

The attack was one of the deadliest mass shootings in Canada, where such crimes are less common than in the United States. The deadliest gun rampage in Canadian history occurred in 2020, when a man disguised as a police officer shot people in their homes and set fires across New Brunswick province. -Scotland, killing 22 people. In 2019, a man used a van to kill 10 pedestrians in Toronto.

Lethal mass stabbings are rarer than mass shootings, but have occurred around the world. In 2014, 29 people were slashed and stabbed to death at a train station in the city of Kunming in southwest China. In 2016, a massive knife attack at a facility for the mentally disabled in Sagamihara, Japan, left 19 people dead. A year later, three men kill eight people in a vehicle and attack with a knife at London Bridge.

“It’s horrible what’s happened in our province,” said Rhonda Blackmore, Assistant Commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Saskatchewan.

Police received their first call about a stabbing at 5.40am on Sunday, and within minutes heard of several more. In total, dead or injured people were found at 13 different locations on the sparsely populated reservation and in the city, Blackmore said. The James Smith Cree Nation is approximately 30 kilometers (20 miles) from Weldon.

She could not provide a motive, but the leader of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations suggested the stabbings could be drug-related.

“This is the destruction we face when harmful illegal drugs invade our communities, and we call on all authorities to follow the direction of Chiefs and Councils and their members to create safer and healthier communities for our people,” said Chief Bobby Cameron.

As the manhunt dragged into its second day as Canadians celebrated Labor Day, Regina Police Chief Evan Bray urged anyone with information to come forward.

“They have not been located so efforts are ongoing,” Bray said in a video posted to Twitter Monday morning. “We won’t stop until we get these two to safety.”

The night before, he said police believed the suspects were still in Regina, but did not say why.

Elected leaders from the three communities that make up the James Smith Cree Nation have declared a local state of emergency.

Chakastaypasin chief Calvin Sanderson – who is apparently not related to the suspects – said everyone was affected by the tragic events.

“They were our parents, our friends,” Sanderson said of the victims. “It’s pretty awful.”

Among the 10 killed was Lana Head, who is the former girlfriend of Michael Brett Burns and the mother of their two daughters.

“It’s crazy how prison, drugs and alcohol can destroy so many lives,” Burns told the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network. “I’m hurt for all this loss.”

Doreen Lees, an 89-year-old grandmother from Weldon, said she and her daughter thought they saw one of the suspects when a car pulled up on her street early on Sunday as her daughter was having coffee on her patio . Lees said a man approached them and said he was injured and needed help.

But Lees said the man took off after his daughter announced she would call for help.

“He wouldn’t show his face. He had a big jacket over his face. We asked for his name and he kind of mumbled his name twice and we still couldn’t get it,” she said. “He said his face was so hurt he couldn’t show it.”

She said she started following him because she was worried about him, but her daughter told her to come home.

Weldon residents identified one of the dead as Wes Petterson. Works said the 77-year-old widower was like an uncle to her.

“I collapsed and hit the ground. I’ve known him since I was little,” she said, describing the moment she heard the news. She said he loved his cats, took pride in his homemade Saskatoon berry jam and frequently helped his neighbors.

” He did not do anything. He didn’t deserve this. He was a good and generous man,” Works said.

Weldon resident Robert Rush described the victim as sweet.

“He wouldn’t hurt a fly,” he said.

Rush said Petterson’s adult grandson was in the basement when the suspects entered the house and he called police.

At the Weldon Christian Tabernacle Church, the congregation began its regular Sunday service by saying a special prayer for the victims and their families.

At James Smith Cree Nation, a convenience store that doubles as a gas station became a gathering place for community members who greeted each other with tears and hugs.

A sign on the door read: “Due to safety concerns with our community, we will remain closed until further notice.”

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a statement that he was “shocked and devastated by the horrific attacks”.

“As Canadians, we mourn with all those affected by this tragic violence and with the people of Saskatchewan,” Trudeau said.

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Associated Press reporter Rob Gillies in Toronto contributed to this report.

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