Damien Sanderson, initially named as second suspect in last month’s attacks, was ‘a victim of homicide’, police say.
Canadian police have said they now believe only one of the two brothers accused of a deadly stabbing spree last month carried out the murders, as communities in the province of Saskatchewan continue to grapple with the rampage.
Saskatchewan Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) announced on Thursday that Damien Sanderson, initially named as a suspect in the attacks, “was a victim of homicide” by his brother, Myles Sanderson.
“Myles Sanderson committed all the homicides alone,” the RCMP said in a news conference, but added their ongoing investigation showed “Damien was involved in the initial planning and preparation for the attacks”.
“We are still investigating the extent of Damien’s involvement,” police said.
The September 4 rampage in the Indigenous community of James Smith Cree Nation and nearby village of Weldon, approximately 320km (200 miles) north of Saskatchewan’s capital, Regina, marked one of the deadliest incidents of violence in Canada’s history.
Eleven people were killed, including Damien Sanderson, and 18 others were injured in the rampage. Myles Sanderson later died after going into “medical distress” in police custody following a days-long search.
Authorities have not released a motive for the attacks and the RCMP said on Thursday that “the reality is, we may never really know exactly why”.
Some community members and Indigenous leaders have said the violence was the result of drug abuse.
“This is the destruction we face when harmful illegal drugs invade our communities,” Chief Bobby Cameron of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) said last month.
Canadian media outlets reported that Myles Sanderson had a two-decade-long criminal record and many of his crimes were carried out when he was intoxicated.
In May, he was listed as “unlawfully at large” after he stopped meeting with his parole officer following a statutory release from prison, CBC News said.
Citing a Parole Board of Canada document, The Canadian Press news agency also reported that Myles Sanderson had a violence-filled childhood, which led to a “cycle of substance abuse, seeking out negative peers and violent behaviour”.
James Smith Cree Nation, a reserve that is home to a small Indigenous community of 1,900 people, continues to grapple with the attacks.
“We are here for the families, to support them in [their] time of need. My nephews lost their father, my best friend. My family … lost their sister,” Chief Wally Burns said just days after the killings. “We’ve got to collect all the resources that we can to help them heal.”
Meanwhile, last month Saskatchewan’s chief coroner announced plans to hold two public inquests into the attacks.
“The events that occurred require a methodical and complete investigation,” Clive Weighill of the Saskatchewan Coroners Service told reporters on September 21.