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James Smith attacks: the first two police officers to arrive on the scene testify | Knife attacks in Saskatchewan

The coroner's inquest aims to shed light on the deaths of the various victims. It also aims to make recommendations to prevent such a tragedy from repeating itself.

  • Vincent H. Turgeon (View profile)Vincent H. Turgeon

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During the third day of hearings of the coroner's inquest into the attacks that occurred on September 4, 2022 in Saskatchewan, the first two police officers to arrive at the scene of the tragedy, Tanner Maynard and David Miller, presented their testimony.< /p>

On September 4, 2022, Myles Sanderson stabbed 11 people, including his brother, Damien Sanderson, and injured 17 others in the Nation shouts James Smith and in the neighboring village of Weldon, Saskatchewan. This is the worst stabbing attack in Canadian history.

A three-day manhunt ensued until law enforcement spotted the car in which Myles Sanderson was traveling on September 7 near the village of Rosthern, in 66 km northeast of Saskatoon.

Shortly after his arrest, the fugitive found himself in respiratory distress. Paramedics were called to the scene to take him to a Saskatoon hospital, where he was eventually pronounced dead.

For nearly three hours, the two Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) officers told jurors about their arrival in the James Smith Cree Nation as did the hours that followed.

When the first call came in at 5:42 a.m., Tanner Maynard and David Miller say they hit the road as quickly as they could.

The two gendarmes already knew that the situation would be serious. While on the way, they received more calls informing them of violent incidents in the Cree Nation.

Knife attacks in Saskatchewan

Consult the complete file

Knife attacks in Saskatchewan

Consult the complete file


Once they arrived in the community, the two police officers went to a first house where they found a man stabbed and another injured.

In order to secure the crime scene, David Miller remained on site while Tanner Maynard attempted, for his part, to locate the suspect.

During his testimony, Mr. Maynard explains the difficulty he had in encouraging a person to continue performing CPR procedures on a stabbed loved one while waiting for paramedics , when he suspected that the victim was already dead.

From my experience, we always want to give the “opportunity for loved ones to say that they did everything they could,” he said, holding back tears.

The police officer says he offered first aid to the various injured people he encountered, but that due to the number of crime scenes, his priority was to find Myles Sanderson in order to prevent him from continuing to kill.

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About fifty Police officers from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police went to the Cree Nation just a few hours after the tragedy began. (File photo)

During the first six hours after the first call, Tanner Maynard estimated that a fifty RCMP officers went to the James Smith Cree Nation.

There were vehicles arriving from everywhere, he remembers. People were screaming in pain or for help.

During cross-examination, David Miller admits that getting to a specific address in the First Nation could be a challenge, both for police officers unfamiliar with the community and for paramedics.

He explains that many houses do not have civic numbers displayed and that several streets do not have names displayed either.

During their testimony and cross-examination, Tanner Maynard and David Miller were also questioned about an incident that occurred the day before the attacks, on September 3, 2022, involving Damien Sanderson.

Although the two police officers encountered him that day, they were not able to recognize him since the most recent photo the police had was from 2014 and Damien Sanderson provided them with a false name.

Tanner Maynard explains that he and his partner did not know at the time that the photo they had was not recent, even though an arrest warrant was in effect for Damien Sanderson.

The third day of the coroner's inquest hearing began Wednesday with testimony from Melfort RCMP Detachment Commander Ryan Case.

Although the latter did not yet occupy this position at the time of the attacks, he was able to explain how his detachment operated and the latter's relations with the James Smith Cree Nation.

Right from the start, the police officer admitted that his team of 16 officers was very busy, emphasizing several times during his testimony that he could benefit from a bigger team. The Melfort detachment covers an area spanning 300 km2.

Due to a lack of personnel, only two officers are on call between 4 a.m. and 8 a.m. and no police officers are actively on duty then. However, on September 4, 2022, Myles Sanderson began carrying out his attacks around 5:40 a.m.

Among all calls that Melfort police must respond to, approximately 10% come from the James Smith Cree Nation. As an indication, from October 1 to December 31, approximately 200 calls received by the Melfort RCMP detachment were from the First Nation.

Ryan Case also reiterated the comments made by his colleague Monday, Staff Sergeant Robin Zentner, emphasizing the importance of having good communication between the RCMP and the different communities .

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“We are considering a system of governance with our own police,” already indicated the Chief of the Cree Nation, Wally Burns, during the ceremonies marking the first anniversary of the tragedy.

Since the September 2022 shootings, the James Smith Cree Nation has created its own security team. Its members, without being police officers, can patrol the community and offer help when necessary.

They us offer local knowledge […] They help us in many ways, Mr. Case emphasized during his testimony.

Although this security team sometimes avoids having to resort to police services, particularly for minor incidents such as a car breaking down on the side of the road, its members are not armed and do not have the legal authority to respond to crimes or violent incidents.

Ryan Case recalled that the James Cree Nation Smith potentially wants to have his own police department. He admitted, however, that such a question was beyond his authority. However, discussions are underway for one or two RCMP officers to be based in the First Nation.

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L' coroner's inquest is being held at the Kerry Vickar Center in Melfort.

Over the past few days, Sgt. staff of the Major Crimes Unit of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), Robin Zentner, presented to the jurors and the audience the chronology of events as well as the conclusions of the investigation carried out by the RCMP.

Having started on Monday, the coroner's inquest, which is taking place in Melfort, approximately 40 km away of the two communities affected by the killings, aims to shed light on the deaths of the different victims, in particular the manner, when and where they were killed. It also aims to make recommendations to prevent such a tragedy from repeating itself.

A second inquest into the death of Myles Sanderson is scheduled for February.

  • Vincent H. Turgeon (View profile)Vincent H. TurgeonFollow
Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116