Stabbing Suspect Myles Sanderson Dies Shortly After Arrest, Police Say

The second suspect in the Saskatchewan stabbings, which left 10 people dead and 18 others injured, died shortly after arrest on Wednesday, September 7, Canadian police said.

In a press conference, Assistant Commissioner Rhonda Blackmore, commanding officer of the Saskatchewan Royal Canadian Mounted Police, said Myles Sanderson went into medical distress shortly after he was taken into custody. He was taken to a hospital and died, Blackmore said.

Video verified by Storyful shows Sanderson being arrested on the side of a road near Rosthern, after a four-day manhunt.

Rosthern is roughly 80 miles southwest of the James Smith Cree Nation, where the killings began on Sunday morning.

“The Saskatchewan RCMP would like to thank the public for their diligence in providing pertinent information about potential sightings of Myles Sanderson,” the RCMP said.

Earlier this week police said the other suspect, Damien Sanderson, was found dead with injuries “not believed to be self-inflicted”

Police have not identified a motive for the killings. Credit: Saskatchewan RCMP via Storyful

Video transcript

[CHATTER]

- Hi, everyone. We're just about to start the news conference, and-- OK, so I'm going to hang up.

- Good evening, and thank you for joining us tonight. I am Sergeant [? Andre ?] [? Sousi, ?] and I'll be your moderator. We will begin shortly with an opening statement from commanding officer of the Saskatchewan RCMP, Assistant Commissioner Rhonda Blackmore. As you can imagine, we have a busy evening ahead of us but felt it was important to address the media, Canadian, and, more importantly, the people of Saskatchewan.

As such, after the opening statement, there will be a 20-minute for media agency to ask questions. We ask that each media identify themselves and limit to one question each. Thank you.

[SPEAKING FRENCH]

RHONDA BLACKMORE: Good evening. This evening, our province is breathing a collective sigh of relief as Myles Sanderson is no longer at large. I can confirm that he is no longer a threat, and there is no risk to the public related to this investigation. I'm going to provide a timeline of the events that occurred this afternoon that led to his arrest, and I will also provide some insight into the operational work that occurred over the past four days.

Here's what I can share with you about the Saskatchewan RCMP response in this investigation. On September 4th, the first report was received by Saskatchewan's RCMP operational communication center at 5:40 AM of a stabbing on James Smythe Cree Nation. Two RCMP officers on duty that morning were at Melfort, RCMP Detachment, approximately 45 kilometers from James Smith Cree Nation. They were dispatched by DOCC at 5:43 AM.

The second call came into DOCC at 5:59 AM. It was a report of two injured people at a residence on James Smith Cree Nation. 19 minutes after the first report, police were already on their way to the scene. RCMP officers arrived at the first scene at James Smith Cree Nation at 6:18 AM. At 6:20 AM, one of the two police officers left the first scene to go to another scene on James Smith Cree Nation. He arrived at the second scene 12 minutes after departing the first.

At 6:35, due to the significant risk to public safety that had been identified, the Saskatchewan RCMP prepared to issue an emergency alert. It was drafted, reviewed, verified, and issued at 7:12 AM. The magnitude of this investigation is immense. Over the past four days, over 160 Saskatchewan, Manitoba, or-- sorry, Alberta, and Ontario RCMP and municipal partner agency employees, both police officers and civilians, have been working non-stop on this investigation.

On Wednesday, September 7th, at 2:07 PM, Wakaw RCMP received a 911 report of a break-and-enter in progress in Wakaw's detachment area. Further information provided stated Myles Sanderson was standing outside of a residence Northeast of Wakaw and was armed with a knife. Sanderson stole a white Chevrolet Avalanche truck with Saskatchewan license plate 953-LPL and fled the property. The homeowner was not physically injured.

The Saskatchewan RCMP operational communications center continued to receive additional reports of Myles traveling in a vehicle. All available police resources in that region immediately responded to the report, including neighboring RCMP detachments and an SPS, Saskatoon police service, and RCMP aircraft. At 2:49 PM, an emergency alert was issued to help ensure the safety of residents in the Wakaw region and travelers on the highway.

Between 2:49 and 3:35, the Saskatchewan RCMP operational communications center received more than 20 calls from the public with potential sightings of the white Chevrolet Avalanche. The white Chevy truck was seen by a Rosthern RCMP officer driving in an unmarked vehicle, traveling West along the highway towards Rosthern at a speed recorded at 150 kilometers per hour. Police confirm the license plate matched the initial report.

At approximately 3:30 PM, the suspect vehicle was seen traveling South on Highway 11, South of Rosthern. To ensure the safety of drivers on the highway, the vehicle was directed off the road and into a nearby ditch. Police officers surrounded the vehicle, and through verbal identification, confirmed the identity of the driver to be Myles Sanderson. He was arrested by police and taken into custody. A knife was located inside the vehicle.

The emergency alert was canceled at 3:50 PM once his identity was confirmed and he had been taken into police custody. Shortly after his arrest, he went into medical distress. Nearby EMS were called by police to attend the scene, and he was transported to a hospital in Saskatoon. He was pronounced deceased at the hospital. The Saskatchewan RCMP has requested the Saskatoon Police Service and the Saskatchewan Incident Response team to conduct the independent external investigation into circumstances surrounding the incident.

The Saskatchewan RCMP has requested the Ministry of Justice appoint an independent investigation observer in accordance with section 91.1 of the Saskatchewan Police Act. Over the past four days, RCMP officers have been working on locating Myles Sanderson, following up on each and every tip from the public, using every technological human and investigational tactic and resource we have available to us. We have experts who continue to connect forensic investigation of the 13 main crime scenes, as well as the other associated crime scenes such as vehicles.

We are also now examining the additional crime scenes that have occurred today. We have already conducted over 150 interviews with witnesses and victims, with more anticipated to take place in the coming days. 400 investigative tasks have also been completed, with many more anticipated to take place in coming days. Informing the public of updates of the investigation and issuing 11 emergency alerts to notify the public of critical and rapidly unfolding public safety information. Providing support services to work with families, victims, and taking a trauma-informed approach to ensure survivors are cared for. Meeting with local community members.

And since Sunday, the Saskatchewan RCMP's Divisional Emergency Operation Center, also known as DEOC, has been active. The DEOC has been staffed 24 hours a day with a combination of police officers and civilian employees. Autopsies of the deceased victims are on schedule to be completed by the Saskatchewan coroner's office by the end of this week. Autopsy details will not be released as that is part of the ongoing investigation. And this is not the end of our work. We do not stop here.

The Saskatchewan RCMP continues to investigate this tragedy, and a police presence will continue in James Smith Cree Nation and the Weldon communities for the next while. Again, I would like to offer my deepest condolences to the families and all those affected and impacted by these events. Our thoughts are with you, and I hope that now, you will be able to start healing. Thank you for your cooperation during this incredibly difficult time.

I would also like to acknowledge the incredible support from our municipal and provincial partners, as well as the outstanding work completed by our RCMP officers, who worked tirelessly day and night to bring this file to this conclusion. Today, I was at James Smith Cree Nation and in the community of Weldon. I was able to see firsthand the generosity and support from the residents of both James Smith Cree Nation, Weldon, and the Melfort communities.

I would like to thank all members of the public who submitted tips and followed up on our request to provide information, no matter how small, no matter how seemingly insignificant, as part of this investigation. Thank you to everyone for your part in helping to keep one another safe. We'll now have Sergeant [? Sousi ?] read the statement in French, and then once she is completed, I will be taking questions.

- [SPEAKING FRENCH]

RHONDA BLACKMORE: OK, I'll now take any questions you may have.

- Alec Salloum, "Regina Leader Post." I'm going to ask, and I understand that this is part of an ongoing, but we've seen footage of somebody standing beside the car, white Avalanche. We've seen photos of somebody being arrested by RCMP today standing up. We've now been told that Sanderson is dead. How did he die? Was he alone when he was arrested?

RHONDA BLACKMORE: He was the only occupant of the vehicle when he was arrested. Shortly after being arrested, he went into medical distress. Emergency medical services responded, and he was transported to hospital in Saskatoon, and that's where he was deceased.

- I wasn't over there. We could see somebody standing beside the scene and heard eyewitness accounts of somebody being arrested at the scene standing up seemingly normal. Was it an overdose? Did he--

RHONDA BLACKMORE: Right. Yeah, it's just something I can't speak to the specific manner of death. That's going to be part of the autopsy that will be conducted.

- Did he have any health problems before this?

RHONDA BLACKMORE: That's part of the investigation that's ongoing, and we'll be certainly looking at all those avenues to determine if there was anyone that was aiding him.

- [? Sean ?] [INAUDIBLE] Daily News. Was the knife the only weapon of use in the entire killing spree that he had over the course of those days, and I guess even today, as well? And do we know about if there's any update on how his brother died? And was there a gun used?

RHONDA BLACKMORE: We have no indication that there were firearms involved. The manners of death will certainly be part of the autopsies and make that determination. In the vehicle today, the weapon that was located in the vehicle was a knife. We're still putting together the parts of the investigation that will speak to Damien's cause of death. And there are aspects with Myles being deceased that we may not know how some things unfolded with-- how that incident unfolded between the two of them, but we're certainly looking at all avenues there.

- And just to follow up, I guess, do we know if Myles ever ended up leaving that area? Obviously, there's the report about him potentially being in Regina with another occupant of a vehicle. Residents in the area kind of told us they felt something was up last night, so I guess just, was he ever in Regina, or did he never leave that area?

RHONDA BLACKMORE: We still-- the information that we have received on Sunday there, we still believe to be credible information. We can't say one way or the other, at this point in time, whether he was here. We're hoping to piece together the timeline of where he was since Sunday. Again, without him being alive at this point in time, some pieces of that may not be able to be pieced together.

MICKEY DJURIC: Mickey here with the "Canadian Press." I was just wondering if when he did go into medical distress since he was in police custody, did any officers attempt to do CPR on the man?

RHONDA BLACKMORE: Absolutely. All lifesaving measures that we're capable of were taken at that point in time until the arrival of EMS shortly thereafter.

MICKEY DJURIC: And then how did you get to Saskatoon? Was it through EMS? Was it through an airplane?

RHONDA BLACKMORE: He was transported via EMS.

MICKEY DJURIC: Just like an ambulance?

RHONDA BLACKMORE: Ground ambulance, yes.

MICKEY DJURIC: And then, have you obtained the murder weapon or weapons yet?

RHONDA BLACKMORE: So that's all part of the investigation. As the crime scenes are examined, any evidence would be taken into secure custody by our investigators. So any evidence there would be secured.

MICKEY DJURIC: And then there's no-- nothing about motive?

RHONDA BLACKMORE: No, and unfortunately, now that Myles is deceased, we may never have an understanding of that motivation, and we've conducted 120 interviews to this point. There's more that we have to do, but witnesses and people around him only have so much information. His motivation may at this time and forever only be known to Myles.

JESSIE ANTON: Jessie Anton, "CBC News." Just to follow up on Mickey's question first. Did the lifesaving measures that were taken involve Narcan at all?

RHONDA BLACKMORE: I can't speak to exactly what occurred on-scene. I do know that our members there on-scene were taking lifesaving measures at that point in time, yes.

JESSIE ANTON: Right. And I'm still looking to fill in a few blanks here. I know it's still an ongoing investigation, but any idea where he might have been over the last four days? And were those tips in Regina, James Smith, were those credible?

RHONDA BLACKMORE: Well, we followed up on every tip, and we've had tips as far away as British Columbia, Alberta, and we asked the public to do that. We said, even if you're not sure, let us know because it could be, right? So we sort of created that, but that's what we need as part of the investigation and the process because we don't know if someone decides, this isn't worth calling. That could be the tip or piece of information that we need.

So we have had some tips that we have been able to determine were not credible. The one from Regina, we still haven't been able to eliminate. We are hoping to piece together a timeline so that at some point in time, we can more definitively say where he was, but we really don't have that information at this point in time.

JESSIE ANTON: And did you ever find the Nissan SUV?

RHONDA BLACKMORE: No, that's still part of the ongoing investigation, and hopefully, as we piece together this timeline, that may lead us to points where we may be able to locate the SUV.

JESSIE ANTON: Any idea where he was going on Highway 11?

RHONDA BLACKMORE: No idea. I think Myles is the only one that can speak to that, given that the speed he was driving is indicative of someone who was just desperate to escape wherever he was at that point in time.

JESSIE ANTON: Thank you.

TEAGAN RASCHE: Teagan Rasche, "Global News." Do you have any more details on how actually catching him went down? Was he trying to dodge cars on the highway? Was he driving faster than 150 kilometers an hour when they actually got him?

RHONDA BLACKMORE: We don't have exact-- I don't have exact speeds that were occurring. We did engage in a pursuit. We don't take pursuits lightly. There has to be some significant risk to the public, and that's exactly what we felt today, that it warranted a pursuit. We were able to connect with that vehicle, remove it from the road, and return some sense of safety to the drivers on the road.

COLE DAVENPORT: Cole Davenport, "CTV News." What is your message tonight to the remaining families and survivors of these attacks now that this seems to have come to a very quick end?

RHONDA BLACKMORE: Yeah. You know, I was at James Smith Cree Nation today. I was speaking to residents there. Their message to me was-- people were saying, I haven't slept. I can't sleep. I can't close my eyes. Every time I close my eyes, I hear noise, and is that him? Is he coming back? So I hope that this brings them some sense of closure in that they can rest easy tonight, knowing that Myles Sanderson is no longer a threat to them.

I think that's important because I don't think they can start that healing process, and it is going to be a very long and extensive process for those individuals. You know, some of them have witnessed incredible trauma. And so, hopefully, this is the first step to allow them to start that healing process, the grieving process. That First Nation is a very small community. Everyone knows everyone. I was speaking with one individual today who talked about his relatives who were impacted and how much impact that's had on him. So that would be my message is that I hope we have enabled them to have that ability to start their healing now.

COLE DAVENPORT: And then just a quick follow-up. How does the RCMP plan to potentially play a role in some of that healing?

RHONDA BLACKMORE: You know, a big part of what we do in this province is being part of our community, understanding, knowing our community. When I was there today, there was some individuals who were going to check on persons who had been injured who were at their house, and they asked if they could have RCMP go with them. And they didn't ask for the RCMP. They asked, can Alphonse go with us?

They know the members in their community, and they trust those members, and they ask for them by name. And that's the important part that we play, that understanding of what these people have been through, trying to support them as much as we can as they start their very long journey of healing.

COLE DAVENPORT: Thank you.

JOHN CAIRNS: Hi. John Cairns, "SaskToday." I know that there was a concern that Myles might have been injured prior to today. Were there any signs, when he was taken into custody, of any prior injuries or any injuries that you could mention?

RHONDA BLACKMORE: So the initial reports that were received from that 911 call at Wakaw indicated that he may have had an injury, but I don't have any further information on that. We do know now that there was a residence-- sorry, a vehicle that was broken into in Weldon, and it seems like he stole a first aid kit out of that vehicle, which would indicate that he had some injuries and was trying to seek some sort of treatment for himself.

- I have a question in French. Yeah, [SPEAKING FRENCH]

- [INAUDIBLE]

RHONDA BLACKMORE: Our witness accounts that we have received have indicated that Myles Sanderson was the person responsible, but that's part of our investigation to determine exactly who was involved. But our indications at this point in time were that it was Myles Sanderson.

- [SPEAKING FRENCH]

- [SPEAKING FRENCH]

- Was it the same thing for his brother, or was it just Myles?

RHONDA BLACKMORE: So our initial indications were that both of them were involved, but our investigation, as I said, continues to evolve as we process the many crime scenes.

- [SPEAKING FRENCH]

BRITTON GRAY: Britton Gray for 650 CKOM. I'm wondering what resources do the RCMP use in this search and if some of those resources have ever been used before to try and track down someone in Saskatchewan. It seems like this was a pretty extensive search.

RHONDA BLACKMORE: It was a massive investigation and a massive search. We brought in resources, both human and technological resources, from other RCMP divisions, as far away as Ottawa brought in those resources to assist. Every technical capability that we could access was made available to us, and we utilized-- pretty much all of that was made available. There is an extensive amount of technology that we can use in these types of investigations, and if we didn't have that here in Saskatchewan, it was rapidly and immediately made available.

BRITTON GRAY: Have you used some of those things before, or was this the first time you've had to reach into that sort of toolbox?

RHONDA BLACKMORE: Some of those pieces of equipment, it is the first time that we've used it here, and it was very beneficial to us in resolving this.

- I guess just to go back to one thing. You said that he was alone when he was arrested. Was he alone while he was traveling in the white truck throughout the day? Was Myles Sanderson by himself during the day?

RHONDA BLACKMORE: So I can't say because we didn't have eyes on him the entire time he was in that truck. We had the witness account that the vehicle had been stolen and then once RCMP was able to get-- had a visual of the suspect vehicle, there was one individual in that vehicle once RCMP. So I can't speak to what happened between that time because I don't know. Our investigation will look at that. But at that point in time, there was no one else in the vehicle until he was arrested.

- If anybody's been helping them, presumably, they'd be facing some charges, as well, right?

RHONDA BLACKMORE: Yeah. Absolutely. That's part of our investigation to determine was someone assisting him, and if they were, were their actions criminally that they should be held criminally responsible for those.

- You mentioned the number of interviews that you've done so far, and you mentioned that we might never have a definitive or good motive for what happened. What are you going to do with those interviews? Will they be made public? And as we talk about the healing process here and the unanswered questions, this is obviously drawn an international audience. This has drawn a lot of eyes here. So if you've done hundred-plus interviews, will those be released as a form of providing some closure?

RHONDA BLACKMORE: No, we wouldn't release those interviews. Those are part of our investigation, and when we take that information from witnesses-- keep in mind this is a very traumatic piece of information I'm sharing. When we interview those individuals, they are reliving that trauma, essentially, as they tell it to us. So you can imagine, if they see their words in the media, how much trauma they could experience that way. So it is sensitive information and very traumatic information that they're sharing with us.

- How do you balance that sort of public desire and need to know what happened?

RHONDA BLACKMORE: So we can-- once we get to the point where we have answers on-- further details on timelines, we can share that information without saying person X said this, right? We can piece that together, that further information to get that information to the public. I understand there's certainly-- people want to understand what happened here and how that unfolded. But we can certainly do that without that very intimate knowledge of what the witnesses have provided to us.

MICKEY DJURIC: Mickey with the Canadian Press. Just another clarification. Is Damien still considered a suspect, or is he involved, or should we be saying he's a victim at this point?

RHONDA BLACKMORE: At this point in time, he is considered a suspect in the homicides that were committed.

MICKEY DJURIC: And were drugs found in the truck of Myles Sanderson, the one he was driving?

RHONDA BLACKMORE: The initial search of the vehicle did not reveal any drugs, but that further search would happen as part of the investigation.

MICKEY DJURIC: Was there any drugs on him?

RHONDA BLACKMORE: I can't speak to that because I don't have that information.

- Is there a possibility of an inquest in addition to the investigations that have already been requested by RCMP?

RHONDA BLACKMORE: I can't really speak to that at this point in time. There's lots of different levels of inquiries or inquests that happen in these types of situations. It was a very, obviously, serious and significant incident, the likes of we haven't certainly seen in any recent memory. So I expect there will be reviews, but I can't speak to exactly what those are.

- I'm sorry. We have a very busy evening in front of us, so we'll wrap it up at this point [INAUDIBLE]