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Myles Sanderson, suspect in deadly Canada stabbing attacks, has died following arrest

Suspect arrested in Canada stabbing attack
Suspect arrested in Canada stabbing attack 00:24

Myles Sanderson, one of two suspects in a stabbing spree that left 10 people dead in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan, has died, police said Wednesday night. He had been arrested earlier in the afternoon following a three-day manhunt.

"Shortly after his arrest, he went into medical distress," Rhonda Blackmore, assistant commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Saskatchewan, said at a press conference Wednesday night. He was transported to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead, Blackmore said. A cause of death was not given. 

An official previously told The Associated Press that Sanderson had died of self-inflicted wounds. The official did not explain when or how those wounds were sustained.

Blackmore said that Sanderson appeared to have also stolen a first aid kit, indicating he may have previously been injured.

Sanderson's brother, 30-year-old Damien Sanderson, who is also suspected in the attacks, was found dead Monday. His wounds did not appear to be self-inflicted, police said.

Blackmore noted that, because both suspects are dead, "we may never have an understanding" of the motive of the attacks.

Prior to his arrest, police received a report that Sanderson was armed with a knife and outside a residence, from which he stole a white SUV. The owner of the vehicle was not hurt, Blackmore said. After the SUV was spotted speeding on the highway, the vehicle was "directed off the road and into a nearby ditch" by police, Blackmore said. Sanderson was the only occupant of the vehicle, according to Blackmore.

Blackmore later said that police had been able to "connect with the vehicle" and "remove it from the road" following a pursuit.

An official familiar with the matter said officers rammed Sanderson's vehicle and he surrendered. The official spoke on condition of anonymity as the person was not authorized to speak publicly about the matter.  

Video and photos from the scene showed a white SUV off to the side of the road with police cars all around.  

"Myles Sanderson was located and taken into police custody near Rosthern, SK at approximately 3:30 p.m. today," the province of Saskatchewan said in an emergency alert Wednesday afternoon. "There is no longer a risk to public safety relating to this investigation."

Myles Sanderson, 32, was facing three counts of first-degree murder, one count of attempted murder and one count of break-and-enter.  

Shortly before police said Myles Sanderson had been apprehended, a person who was reported to be armed with a knife was sighted in the town of Wakaw and in the city of Prince Albert, RCMP said. Wakaw is about 40 miles south of Prince Albert. Both are in Saskatchewan.

The person was spotted in a 2008 white Chevrolet Avalanche with Saskatchewan license plate No. 953 LPL. The vehicle was reported stolen at 2:10 p.m. local time, police said.

Some family members of the victims arrived at the scene and thanked police, including Brian Burns, whose wife and son were killed.

"Now we can start to heal. The healing begins today, now," he said.

Another of Burns' sons was wounded and "hopefully can sleep at night now knowing he's behind bars," Burns said.

Sunday's stabbing spree occurred in 13 separate locations throughout the James Smith Cree Nation and in Weldon, authorities said. Police said that the death of Sanderson's brother, 30-year-old Damien Sanderson, did not appear to be self-inflicted.

Along with the 10 fatalities, another 19 people were injured in the stabbing attack. 

The stabbing rampage raised questions of why Myles Sanderson — an ex-con with 59 convictions and a long history of shocking violence — was out on the streets in the first place.

He was released by a parole board in February while serving a sentence of over four years on charges that included assault and robbery. But he had been wanted by police since May, apparently for violating the terms of his release, though the details were not immediately clear.

His long and lurid rap sheet also showed that seven years ago, he attacked and stabbed one of the victims killed in the weekend rampage, according to court records.

Canadian Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said there will be an investigation into the parole board's assessment of Sanderson.

"I want to know the reasons behind the decision" to release him, Mendicino said. "I'm extremely concerned with what occurred here. A community has been left reeling."

Investigators have not given a motive for the bloodshed.

The Saskatchewan Coroner's Service said nine of those killed were from the James Smith Cree Nation: Thomas Burns, 23; Carol Burns, 46; Gregory Burns, 28; Lydia Gloria Burns, 61; Bonnie Burns, 48; Earl Burns, 66; Lana Head, 49; Christian Head, 54; and Robert Sanderson, 49, One was from Weldon, 78-year-old Wesley Patterson.

Authorities would not say how the victims might be related.

Mark Arcand said his half-sister Bonnie and her son Gregory were killed.

"Her son was lying there already deceased. My sister went out and tried to help her son, and she was stabbed two times, and she died right beside him," he said. "Right outside of her home she was killed by senseless acts. She was protecting her son. She was protecting three little boys. This is why she is a hero."

Arcand rushed to the reserve the morning of the rampage. After that, he said, "I woke up in the middle of the night just screaming and yelling. What I saw that day I can't get out of my head."

As for what set off the violence, Arcand said: "We're all looking for those same answers. We don't know what happened. Maybe we'll never know. That's the hardest part of this."

Court documents said Sanderson attacked his in-laws Earl Burns and Joyce Burns in 2015, knifing Earl Jones repeatedly and wounding Joyce Burns. He later pleaded guilty to assault and threatening Earl Burns' life.

Many of Sanderson's crimes were committed when he was intoxicated, according to court records. He told parole officials at one point that substance use made him out of his mind. Records showed he repeatedly violated court orders barring him from drinking or using drugs.

Canada's Indigenous communities are plagued by drugs and alcohol.

"The drug problem and the alcohol problem on these reserves is way out of hand," said Ivor Wayne Burns, whose sister was killed in the weekend attacks. "We have dead people, and we asked before for something to be done."

Myles Sanderson's childhood was marked by violence, neglect and substance abuse, court records show. Sanderson, who is Indigenous and was raised on the Cree reserve, population 1,900, started drinking and smoking marijuana at around 12, and cocaine followed soon after.

In 2017, he barged into his ex-girlfriend's home, punched a hole in the door of a bathroom while his two children were hiding in a bathtub and threw a cement block at a vehicle parked outside, according to parole documents.

He got into a fight a few days later at a store, threatening to kill an employee and burn down his parents' home, documents said.

That November he threatened an accomplice into robbing a fast-food restaurant by clubbing him with a gun and stomping on his head. He then stood watch during the holdup.

In 2018, he stabbed two men with a fork while drinking and beat someone unconscious.

When he was released in February, the parole board set conditions on his contact with his partner and children and also said he should not enter into relationships with women without written permission from his parole officer.

In granting Sanderson "statutory release," parole authorities said: "It is the Board's opinion that you will not present an undue risk to society."

Canadian law grants prisoners statutory release after they serve two-thirds of their sentence. But the parole board can impose conditions on that freedom, and inmates who violate them - as Sanderson did more than once - can be ordered back to prison.

Sharna Sugarman, who was organizing a GoFundMe for the victims, questioned the parole board for releasing him and wondered why Sanderson was still on the loose so many months after he was deemed "unlawfully at large."

"That's just egregious to me," said Sugarman, a counselor who counted one of the stabbing victims as a client. "If they claim that they've been looking for him, well, you weren't looking that hard."

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