Saskatchewan RCMP Commanding Officer provides update on the James Smith Cree Nation Investigation

October 6, 2022
Saskatchewan, Saskatchewan


Good afternoon,

I'm here today to provide an update on the ongoing investigation of the mass casualties that occurred on the James Smith Cree Nation and Weldon communities in September.

I know how difficult it is for family members and the communities to revisit this tragedy. I've seen the impact of this firsthand in my time there over the past month. I would like to offer you again…my sincere sympathies.

In the aftermath of the September 4th tragedy, our officers have been working tirelessly to investigate all aspects of the attacks…this includes the events and interactions leading up to the homicides until the arrest of Myles Sanderson.

I know there has been significant interest from the public relating to the activities of Myles and Damien Sanderson hours before the mass casualties.

The information I am about to share, is just one of the over 4600 calls the Saskatchewan RCMP received from the public between September 3rd and September 8th, 2022.

A complete investigation and review of all these calls is ongoing to ensure investigators thoroughly examine every call to the Saskatchewan RCMP pertaining to this incident.

It's likely that information already or yet to be collected may alter the investigative account of the sequence of these events.

Therefore, the information we have today is based on what is currently known to investigators in relation to the activities of Damien Sanderson hours before the attacks.

On Saturday, September 3rd, 2022, at approximately 4 a.m., Melfort RCMP received a report that Damien Sanderson stole a vehicle on the James Smith Cree Nation.

The caller explicitly requested multiple times during the initial and follow-up calls to remain anonymous.

At approximately 4:15 a.m., two officers from the Melfort RCMP detachment responded.

On their way to the James Smith Cree Nation, as part of their investigation, the officers confirmed Damien had a warrant for his arrest for a previous assault.

The two officers also looked at a photo of Damien from the RCMP Police Record and Occurrence System to assist them with their search efforts. The most recent photo available of him in the system was from 2014.

The officers contacted the caller, who declined to provide an initial statement to police or to provide any further details about the stolen vehicle.

The officers conducted extensive patrols throughout the James Smith Cree Nation in an attempt to locate Damien and the stolen vehicle.

Officers contacted the caller a second time, to see if they would know of any other locations where Damien may be. The caller suggested police search for the vehicle on North Road on James Smith Cree Nation.

Officers immediately went to search the area and located the vehicle parked in front of a residence on North Road. The vehicle was empty, the windows were down, and the keys were missing. The officers confirmed the vehicle belonged to the caller by the license plate.

Officers contacted the caller to confirm the vehicle was located. The caller planned to retrieve the vehicle.

While checking the area surrounding the vehicle, officers spoke with the occupants of a nearby RV, but none had seen Damien.

The officers then knocked on the door of the residence and obtained consent from the homeowner to conduct a search for Damien.

Inside the residence, the officers observed 3 males among a group of approximately 7 individuals. The males in the residence were asked to identify themselves. None of them identified as being Damien Sanderson.

The keys for the stolen vehicle were recovered from inside the residence. Officers were unable to obtain any information from the occupants of the residence about how the vehicle got there.

The caller arrived at the residence to retrieve the vehicle shortly after 6 a.m. The officers again asked the caller if there were any other locations Damien may be. The caller suggested officers check a residence on River Street for Damien before leaving in the vehicle.

Officers attended the address on River Street and spoke to the occupants, who advised Damien was not there.

Officers contacted the caller again to provide an update and asked if there were any other locations to search for Damien. The caller did not know of any other locations.

The officers checked every location the caller provided them and patrolled the community in its entirety over the span of approximately three hours from when the initial report was received, in search for Damien.

There was no evidence or witnesses available at the time to support a charge of a stolen vehicle.

Before attending to other policing duties, the officers requested the caller contact them immediately if there was any new information to assist with their search.

Through follow-up statements during the investigation, we later confirmed Damien provided a false name to the responding officers during the search of the residence.

He had been at the residence and verbally provided the officers the name of another, real person in the community.

Investigators were also able to confirm the vehicle was taken from the caller some time between noon and 9 p.m. on September 2, 2022.

I'd like to be clear, that at no time during the first 911 report to police, or any of the following conversations between Melfort RCMP officers and the caller, on the morning of September 3rd, was Myles Sanderson's name…or actions…or any threats of violence, reported to police.

The Saskatchewan RCMP had no information or indication that would suggest any violence was to occur.

The events that were going to unfold the next day were unknown to police at the time.

Today, as a result of the ongoing investigation into the mass casualties on the James Smith Cree Nation, investigators have been able to determine the following information:

Myles and Damien Sanderson were actively selling drugs in the community on September 3rd.

Both Myles and Damien were involved in at least three violent altercations involving other individuals in the James Smith Cree Nation. It is unknown at this point whether any weapons were involved.

None of these violent altercations were reported to police prior to the homicides being committed on September 4th.

Evidence collected and analyzed by investigators to date have determined Damien was involved in the initial planning and preparation for the attacks on September 4th. We are still investigating the extent of Damien's involvement.

On September 5th, the Saskatchewan RCMP advised the public that Damien Sanderson was charged with one count of first-degree murder; one count of attempted murder; and one count of break and enter. This was based on our preliminary investigation and information from victim and witness accounts.

After completing 250 interviews, processing over 670 exhibits, reviewing and following up on over 100-911 calls for service, investigators have determined…Damien Sanderson was a victim of homicide by Myles Sanderson.

Myles Sanderson committed all the homicides alone.

This brings the total number of people who were killed by Myles Sanderson on September 4th, 2022, to 11.

All charges related to this investigation have been withdrawn by the Crown following the deaths of Myles and Damien Sanderson.

The Saskatchewan RCMP believes it's important to clarify Damien's involvement in the sequence of these events to demonstrate our continued commitment to transparency to the victims and families of those affected…and to the public.

Our investigators continue to corroborate witness statements with physical evidence and exhibits to create an accurate picture of the motives behind these crimes and why some of the victims were targeted.

This will take time to complete and the reality is, we may never really know exactly why.

Based on the large quantity of information, it will take months to provide a full timeline of all the events that took place prior to and following September 4th.

The RCMP Major Crimes Unit is currently reviewing all the evidence to piece together a comprehensive timeline to provide an accurate picture of the events – which we remain committed to sharing with the public once it's complete.

The Saskatchewan RCMP continues to support James Smith Cree Nation, Weldon and surrounding communities.

Officers from the Saskatchewan RCMP Indigenous Policing Services Unit and the Melfort RCMP have had the privilege to participate in several pipe ceremonies, smudges of impacted houses and other ceremonial events to support the communities over the past month.

The Saskatchewan Victim Services Unit continues to work closely with family members of victims and those affected by the incident to ensure ongoing support and communications are provided for their healing process to continue.

We understand the significant interest in this investigation and know there are still many questions left unanswered. Many of these answers will be released during the Coroner's inquest scheduled to take place in 2023.


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