Canadian authorities are searching for two men in connection with a mass stabbing Sunday that left at least 10 dead and 15 injured across multiple crime scenes in Saskatchewan in central Canada.
Authorities have identified the two suspects as Damien Sanderson and Myles Sanderson, and are advising the public to take appropriate precautions. The pair are believed to be armed and dangerous and traveling in a black Nissan Rogue with a Saskatchewan license plate 119 MPI.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Saskatchewan, Alberta and Manitoba are all jointly investigating the stabbings.
“We are dedicating a maximum number of resources to this investigation,” said Assistant Commissioner Rhonda Blackmore with the RCMP Saskatchewan in a statement.
“Let me be clear, we are still looking for the two suspects. We are asking residents across Saskatchewan and our neighbouring provinces to be vigilant. At this stage in our investigation, we believe some of the victims have been targeted by the suspects and others have been attacked randomly,” Blackmore said.
Authorities described Damien Sanderson as a 31-year-old man who is 5-feet-7 inches tall, 155 pounds, and has black hair and brown eyes. Myles Sanderson is described as a 30-year-old man who is 6-feet-1-inch tall and 240 pounds with brown hair and brown eyes.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted Sunday afternoon the stabbings “are horrific and heartbreaking.”
“As this is an unfolding situation, I encourage everyone in the area to listen to the advice of law enforcement to take shelter and follow the proper precautions,” Trudeau wrote in a statement later Sunday. “The Government of Canada has been in direct communication with the James Smith Cree Nation community leadership and we are ready to assist in any way we can. Those responsible for today’s abhorrent attacks must be fully brought to justice.”
“To James Smith Cree Nation and the people of Saskatchewan: You are in our thoughts. We are here to support you during this difficult time,” Trudeau said.
How the stabbings took place
Blackmore said the first stabbing report came at 5:40 a.m. local time (6:30 a.m. ET) on the James Smith Cree Nation and within minutes they received multiple calls reporting additional stabbings. Over the next six hours, Saskatchewan RCMP sent out multiple alerts and updates on the stabbings including issuing a Dangerous Persons Alert for Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Alberta.
Authorities said there are 13 crime scenes where victims were found across Saskatchewan in the communities of James Smith Cree Nation and Weldon. Several victims were injured, at least 15 of whom were taken to various hospitals, Blackmore said, adding that there may be additional injured victims who took themselves to the hospital.
“It is certainly a very significant event if not the largest we’ve seen in the last number of years,” Blackmore said.
Leaders of James Smith Cree Nation declared a state of emergency in response to the “numerous murders and assault on members of James Smith Cree Nation,” according to a statement that was posted on the Facebook page of the Federation of Sovereign Indian Nations, which represents 74 First Nations in the province.
Two emergency operation centers have been set up to help provide health support to the communities, the statement read.
Three helicopters from STARS Air Ambulance were dispatched to James Smith Cree Nation during the mass stabbing incident, STARS spokesman Mark Oddan told CNN. Two of the helicopters were from Saskatoon and one was from Regina, he said.
The first crew, from Saskatoon, did an initial triage of victims on the scene and the second aircraft brought in a physician to the scene to help triage and lead the emergency response, Oddan said.
In a message to the two suspects, Blackmore said, “If Damien and Myles are listening or receive this information I would ask that they turn themselves into police immediately.”
“Our thoughts are with the many victims deceased and injured, their family, friends and community. It is horrific what has occurred in our province today,” she continued.
Sunday’s violence prompted officials to issue a “civil emergency,” warning residents in the Regina area to “take precautions.”
“To everyone in Saskatchewan, especially those in proximity to the James Smith Cree First Nation area, please shelter in place and stay safe,” Canadian Minister of Public Safety Marco Mendicino tweeted.
Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe tweeted his condolences to the people of the province.
“There are no words to adequately describe the pain and loss caused by this senseless violence. All of Saskatchewan grieves with the victims and their families,” Moe tweeted.
The mass stabbing also led to increased security at the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ game, the CFL team said on twitter.
“As a result, additional members of law enforcement have been deployed across Mosaic Stadium and the surrounding area,” the statement read. “The Club operates a centralized command centre on game day that allows immediate connection to local emergency services and the ability to receive up to the minute information when any sort of emergency occurs.”