The RCMP says a special unit dedicated to arresting fugitives was not actively searching for a Saskatchewan man they believe was responsible for a stabbing that killed 10 people and injured 18 others.
Myles Sanderson was a suspect in the James Smith Cree Nation and Weldon, Sask. attacks that sparked a four-day manhunt last week.
He was arrested on a rural stretch of highway last Wednesday, after which police said he fell into “medical emergency” and died in their custody.
In addition to the 10 people killed, Myles’ brother Damien, also a suspect, was found dead on the reservation.
Canada Correctional Service says Myles Sanderson was released from prison after legal release in August 2021 and was declared illegitimate in late May, more than 100 days before the stabbings took place.
Last year, the Saskatchewan RCMP established a special unit to track down people wanted for violating the terms of their parole.
But the RCMP says the unit did not investigate Sanderson’s case while he was at large.
Police say officers are currently required to manage more than 6,000 outstanding arrest warrants, and the unit is focused on finding “high-profile” offenders and gang members.
Parole docs show long list of violations
The stabbings have raised questions about what police and judicial authorities should do if people with violent criminal records violate the rules of their freedom.
Parole documents show Sanderson was convicted as an adult of 59 crimes, including 28 for failing to comply with parole or failing to appear in court. His criminal record included violent attacks, including against people who were victims of the recent attacks.
In May, Crime Stoppers released a report that Sanderson was wanted for arrest and was last seen in Saskatoon. A copy of the warrant for Sanderson’s arrest in May stated that he had no permanent address.
Saskatoon is one of two locations for the new provincially funded, RCMP staffed program that will work with city police to track down high-profile offenders with outstanding arrest warrants.
The Saskatchewan Department of Justice says the RCMP controls the unit’s operations.
RCMP says special unit receives many requests per day
In a statement, the Saskatchewan RCMP said the warrant enforcement and suppression unit was not actively investigating Sanderson because he was illegal in the months leading up to the attacks.
It says that as of Sept. 10, investigators were monitoring a list of 63 people who had been declared illegal overall by Correctional Service Canada in the province.
It says the unit receives many requests per day and “supports the apprehension of high-profile offenders and gang members with outstanding arrest warrants.”
“(It) gives priority to individuals who generally commit unlawful violence,” a spokesman said.
“Investigators also take into account the level of violence against individuals, the propensity for recidivism, the seriousness of the offenses and possible ties to gangs.”
An analytical team is also monitoring crime-rise sites to help investigators focus their efforts, and police say they prioritize RCMP’s jurisdiction in rural areas.
The RCMP says the unit started enforcement in May and “as you can imagine, it will take time to fully deploy a new team.” So far, the four investigators have made 12 arrests. The RCMP says it is also hiring two more officers for the unit.
There are about 6,680 outstanding arrest warrants in Saskatchewan, the RCMP says.
In Sanderson’s case, Correctional Service Canada and the Parole Board convene a joint committee of inquiry to determine whether policies and protocols have been followed and to make recommendations.
It is not clear when that investigation will begin, but the federal government says it will share the results publicly.