REGINA, Saskatchewan (AP) — A series of stabbings at an Indigenous community and at another town nearby in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan left 10 people dead and 15 wounded, Canadian police said Sunday as they searched for two suspects.
The stabbings took place in multiple locations on the James Smith Cree Nation and in the village of Weldon, northeast of Saskatoon, police said.
Rhonda Blackmore, the Assistant Commissioner of the RCMP Saskatchewan, said some of the victims appear to have been targeted by the suspects but others appear to have been attacked at random. She couldn’t provide a motive.
“It is horrible what has occurred in our province today,” Blackmore said.
She said there are 13 crime scenes where either deceased or injured people were found. She urged the suspects to turn themselves in.
Blackmore said police began receiving reports before 6 am of stabbings on the First Nation community. More reports of attacks quickly followed and by noon the police issued a warning that a vehicle reportedly carrying the two suspects had been spotted in Regina.
Police said the last information they had from the public was that the suspects were sighted there around lunchtime. There have been no sightings since.
“If in the Regina area, take precautions & consider sheltering in place. Do not leave a secure location. DO NOT APPROACH suspicious persons. Do not pick up hitch hikers. Report suspicious persons, emergencies or information to 9-1-1. Do not disclose police locations,” the RCMP said in a message on Twitter.
Doreen Lees, an 89-year-old grandmother from Weldon, said she and her daughter thought they saw one of the suspects when a car came barreling down her street early in the morning as her daughter was having coffee on her deck. Lees said a man approached them and said he was hurt and needed help.
But Lees said the man took off and ran after her daughter said she would call for help.
“He wouldn’t show his face. He had a big jacket over his face. We asked his name and he kind of mumbled his name twice and we still couldn’t get it,” she said. “He said his face was injured so bad he couldn’t show it.”
She said the man was by himself and “kind of a little wobbly.”
“I followed him a little ways to see if he was going to be OK. My daughter said ‘Don’t follow him, get back here.'”
Weldon resident Diane Shier said she was in her garden Sunday morning when she noticed emergency crews a couple of blocks away.
Shier said her neighbor was killed. She did not want to identify the victim out of respect for his family.
“I am very upset because I lost a good neighbor,” she said.
Weldon resident Robert Rush also described the victim as a gentle, widowed man in his 70s. “He wouldn’t hurt a fly.”
He said the victim’s adult grandson was in the basement at the time and called the police.
“He stayed down there until they were gone,” he said.
The search for suspects was carried out as fans descended on Regina for a sold out annual Labor Day game between the Canadian Football League’s Saskatchewan Roughriders and Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
The Regina Police Service said in a news release that with the help of Mounties, it was working on several fronts to locate and arrest the suspects and had “deployed additional resources for public safety throughout the city, including the football game at Mosaic Stadium.”
The alert first issued by Melfort, Saskatchewan RCMP about 7 am was extended hours later to cover Manitoba and Alberta, as the two suspects remained at large.
Damien Sanderson, 31, was described as five feet seven inches tall and 155 pounds, and Myles Sanderson, 30, as six-foot-one and 200 pounds. Both have black hair and brown eyes and may be driving a black Nissan Rogue.
The Saskatchewan Health Authority said multiple patients were being treated at several sites.
“A call for additional staff was issued to respond to the influx of casualties,” authority spokeswoman Anne Linemann said in an email.
Mark Oddan, a spokesperson with STARS Air Ambulance, said two helicopters were dispatched from Saskatoon and another from Regina.
He said two carried patients to the Royal University Hospital in Saskatoon, while the third carried a patient to the Royal University from a hospital in Melfort, a short distance southeast of Weldon.
“The attacks in Saskatchewan today are horrific and heartbreaking. I’m thinking of those who have lost a loved one and of those who were injured,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted.
“We are closely monitoring the situation, and urge everyone to follow updates from local authorities. Thank you to all the brave first responders for their efforts on the ground.”
The James Smith Cree Nation said it had declared a state of emergency and set up two operations centers to support people in the area.
Associated Press journalist Rob Gillies in Toronto contributed to this report.