A suspect in a deadly series of stabbings in Saskatchewan was chased down by police on a rural highway, but he went into medical distress soon after his arrest and died, RCMP said Wednesday.
Myles Sanderson, the subject of a four-day manhunt that left an entire region northeast of Saskatoon on edge, was spotted near the town of Rosthern and ended up driving into a ditch while being pursued by police cruisers.
“Shortly after being arrested, he went into medical distress,” said RCMP Assistant Commissioner Rhonda Blackmore.
She said officers performed life-saving measures and he was transported by ambulance to a Saskatoon hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
“I can’t speak to the specific manner of death. That’s going to be part of the autopsy that will be conducted,” Blackmore said.
Sanderson was wanted on charges, including first-degree murder, after attacks that left 10 people dead and 18 injured on Sunday. The rampage happened at 13 different locations on the James Smith Cree Nation and the nearby village of Weldon.
The only other suspect, Sanderson’s brother Damien, was found dead near one of the crime scenes on Monday. That means the public may not find out what prompted the stabbings.
“Now that Myles is deceased, we may never have an understanding of that motivation,” Blackmore said.
“We’ve conducted 120 interviews to this point … but witnesses and people around him only have so much information.”
She has requested an independent investigation into the circumstances of Myles Sanderson’s death.
What happened between the brothers and how Damien Sanderson died also remain unclear, she added. Police had said Damien Sanderson didn’t kill himself and Myles Sanderson was being investigated in his death.
Blackmore also said investigators don’t know where Myles Sanderson was over the four days.
His arrest brought relief to some family members of the victims who arrived at the scene to thank RCMP.
“Now we can start to heal. The healing begins today now,” said Brian Burns, whose wife, Bonnie Burns, and son Gregory Burns were killed in the attacks.
Another son was also stabbed in the neck but survived. The teen stood on the side of the road weeping in the arms of family members as his father spoke.
“He was having rough sleeps at night knowing (Sanderson) was still out there. Hopefully he can get some rest now,” said Brian Burns.
On the First Nation, members gathered at the school for a wake for one of the victims. For the first time in days, there were fewer officers visible in the community.
On Wednesday, RCMP released the names of those killed, while court records showed Myles Sanderson had previously assaulted at least one of them.
Earl and Joyce Burns are Myles Sanderson’s former in-laws. Earl Burns, 66, was killed and his wife was injured and remained in hospital, a family spokesperson said.
The court documents say that in 2015 Sanderson repeatedly stabbed Earl Burns with a knife, and wounded Joyce Burns in Prince Albert. He was handed a jail sentence of two years less a day.
The records, from Melfort and Prince Albert courthouses, show Sanderson has a history of terrorizing residents of James Smith Cree Nation, with his jail sentences getting lengthier over time. Other offences included assaulting his former partner and mother of his children. In 2015, he was given a six-month sentence.
A Parole Board document shows he was given statutory release for his most recent prison sentence, but in May he was wanted for being unlawfully at large.
Earlier Wednesday in Saskatoon, other family members paid tribute to Bonnie Burns.
At an emotional news conference, her brother Mark Arcand’s voice wavered as he said Burns died on her property while trying to protect her children.
“Right outside of her home, she was killed by senseless acts. She was protecting her son. She was protecting three little boys,” Arcand said.
He said his sister had called for help and when a woman came to the home she was also killed.
“How can somebody do this to women and children? Words can’t express the pain that we’re feeling.”
Some younger children inside the home witnessed the attack and had to walk by the victims afterward, Arcand added.
“I think they had to pass by their mom, and that innocent lady, and their brother laying outside, and they were taken away to family within the community.”
An online fundraiser for victims and their families was closed Tuesday after surpassing its $100,000 goal. A separate GoFundMe page was created Wednesday for the Burns family and raised $9,000 in its first three hours.
—Kelly Geraldine Malone, The Canadian Press