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James Smith attacks: 'It's the worst thing I've seen in my career' | Knife attacks in Saskatchewan

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“It was a very chaotic situation,” explained Darren Simons during his testimony. (Archive photo)

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

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The fourth day of the coroner's inquest into the attacks that occurred on September 4, 2022 in Saskatchewan began with the testimony of the detachment commander of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) from Melfort at the time of the tragedy, Darren Simons.

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

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

Today at the retirement, the former staff sergeant took up his post in Melfort in July 2022, only a month and a half before the killing. At the time of the tragedy, he had only been to the James Smith Cree Nation once or twice.

It was a very chaotic situation, he says, describing his arrival in the community on September 4, 2022.

I saw several injured people […], several ambulances. It didn't seem real to me.

A quote from Darren Simons, Melfort RCMP detachment commander at the time of the attacks

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It's the worst thing I've seen in my career, without hesitation, he says.

With emotion, the former police officer emphasizes how proud he was of the work of his team that morning, despite the seriousness of the situation. Several police officers, on leave, on vacation or working in other detachments, came to lend a hand to the team. It also highlights the cooperation on the part of the leaders of the First Nation.

During his cross-examination, Darren Simons, holding back tears, also apologized to the daughter of Earls Burns Sr., who died on his school bus while chasing Myles Sanderson, even though he himself had been stabbed moments before.

I am sorry I couldn't provide quicker help to your father.

A quote from Darren Simons, Melfort RCMP detachment commander at the time of the attacks

Despite the hopes of some members of the James Smith Cree Nation, Darren Simons does not believe that having two gendarmes based in the First Nation would allow for a faster police response. He explains that such a measure would not mean that the two police officers would be continually in the community.

According to the former staff sergeant, the security team put in place by the First Nation following the attacks is the best solution, allowing the RCMP to have eyes and ears within of the community.

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Several positions were vacant at the Melfort RCMP detachment in September 2022. (Archive photo)

Cross-examined by the lawyer representing the Nation shouts James Smith, Darren Simons acknowledges that his detachment was facing a manpower shortage in September 2022. However, he does not believe that the reduced team hindered the response offered by the RCMP since members of other detachments came to lend a hand.

Like his former colleague David Miller on Wednesday, Darren Simons also recognizes that the fact that addresses and street names are not always displayed may have caused some confusion among first responders.

The testimony of the ex-wife of Myles Sanderson, the man responsible for the attacks, is expected during the afternoon.

Since the beginning of the investigation, only members of the RCMP have testified.

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The coroner's inquest is being held at the Kerry Vickar Center in Melfort, about 40 km from the two communities affected by the attacks.

Proceedings began on Monday with the timeline of events, both the timing of the attacks and the whereabouts of Myles Sanderson and his brother, Damien Sanderson, in the preceding days.

The first two police officers to arrive on scene were then able to describe their arrival in the James Smith Cree Nation and how they handled the crisis.

The Melfort RCMP detachment commander also described the operation of his detachment and its relationship with the First Nation.

Having started on Monday, the coroner's inquest aims to shed light on the deaths of the various victims, in particular how these people were killed, as well as when and where it happened. It also aims to make recommendations to prevent such a tragedy from repeating itself.

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

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