RCMP timeline of James Smith massacre

The Saskatchewan RCMP has disclosed a sequence of events regarding a violent attack on a First Nation in Saskatchewan that resulted in 11 fatalities and 17 injuries. The brutal incident involved multiple stabbings in the James Smith Cree Nation area and initiated a four-day extensive search for the alleged perpetrator, Myles Sanderson, who was later apprehended. Unfortunately, Sanderson passed away due to medical complications after his arrest on September 7th. On Thursday, the Saskatchewan RCMP made public a timeline of the massacre that occurred in the community and a linked death in Weldon, Sask.

Despite providing a comprehensive timeline, the Saskatchewan RCMP chose to exclude several particulars that could potentially affect ongoing investigations and coroners’ service inquests related to Myles Sanderson’s death in custody. During the news conference, Superintendent Joshua Graham, the head of the provincial RCMP’s major crimes unit, mostly addressed the media.

He reiterated the RCMP’s finding that Myles Sanderson was solely responsible for all the killings.


Graham opened his speech by discussing the events of Thursday, September 1st, when Miles Sanderson made his way to James Smith and spent the next 24 hours selling cocaine in the area.

The police stated that the initial act of violence occurred the following day, during the afternoon of Friday, September 2nd, when Sanderson and his brother Damien were passengers in an SUV. While driving, Myles brutally assaulted the female driver, causing her to flee the vehicle. He then proceeded to use the SUV as a weapon to harm the woman, who later left the First Nation. Myles and Damien then took the SUV, picked up another woman and continued to drive around selling cocaine. This would be the first of several vehicle thefts that occurred.

Later that day, the trio stopped at a bar in Kinistino to purchase alcohol before returning to James Smith. After midnight on Saturday, September 3rd, Myles, Damien, and the woman arrived at a residence on New York Road, where Damien and Myles engaged in a physical altercation with one of the male occupants.

“No weapons were involved. No one was seriously injured and the altercation was believed to be drug-related,” Graham said.

Around 4 a.m., the brothers then went to a house on North Road to socialize. Melfort RCMP soon received a report that Damien Sanderson had stolen a vehicle. The caller asked for their vehicle back and told RCMP that Damien was wanted on outstanding warrants. The caller asked multiple times to remain anonymous. Around 5:30 a.m., police located the vehicle at the house on North Road.

“The officer spoke with the occupants of the residence and searched the house with the homeowner’s consent; the keys for the vehicle were located on a table inside the residence,” Graham said. “The occupants denied Damien was present in the house and could not explain how the vehicle got there.”

In the following three hours, law enforcement officials scoured the community in search of Damien. After conducting interviews in the aftermath of the mass murders, the police discovered that Damien had been present at the North Road residence when the Melfort RCMP arrived, but he provided officers with the name of another community member instead of his own. At the time, the police only had access to an outdated photograph of Damien from eight years prior when he was last charged, and they were unaware of his true identity.

Just after noon, a woman picked up Damien and Myles and transported them to the Kinistino bar. Around 1:30 p.m., the woman dropped them off again in James Smith. Graham reported that the duo spent multiple hours walking between various residences on Edward Burns Avenue.


Around 5 p.m. on September 3rd, Damien and Myles arrived at a residence on Edward Burns Avenue, where Myles informed the occupants that he was there to confront Gregory Burns. Someone inside the home then invited Burns over.

Upon his arrival, Burns was physically assaulted by Myles and Damien, but no weapons were involved, and no severe injuries were reported, according to Graham. After 6 p.m., Damien and Myles went their separate ways for several hours. Damien returned to the Kinistino bar with two other men, while Myles stayed in James Smith. As per Graham, Damien informed a female acquaintance that he and his brother had a “mission to do” and that people would hear about it soon. Damien met back up with Myles before midnight, and they proceeded to assault another man at a residence on Melrose Place. Once again, no weapons were used, and no one was seriously harmed.

Afterward, the brothers spent time at two homes on Edward Burns Avenue before stealing a 2006 grey Dodge Caravan. Graham reported that at around 4 a.m., the pair sold drugs to two women in the community before returning to one of the homes on Edward Burns Avenue. Witnesses stated that the brothers were heavily intoxicated and “pumping themselves up” for something. They left together in the Dodge Caravan and headed northbound on North Road. As per Graham, this moment marks the beginning of the mass stabbing.

“With the exception of the [Sept. 3] vehicle theft report, none of these violent altercations or interactions were reported to police prior to [Sept. 4] the mass casualty homicides occurring,” Graham said. “The Saskatchewan RCMP had no information or indication that would suggest any violence of the sort was to occur”.


On Sunday, September 4th, around 5:30 a.m., Myles and Damien entered a North Road home in search of a woman but failed to find her. They then went to another North Road home, where they forced their way in, and Myles attacked a man with scissors.

Damien intervened and stopped the assault but asked the injured man not to call the police. Myles grabbed a knife from the kitchen and left, and the injured man called 911. This call was the first indication of violence in the community that day, and the on-call Melfort RCMP officers received the complaint at 5:40 a.m. and were en route by 5:52 a.m.

Upon arriving in the community at 6:18 a.m., they provided medical assistance and started investigating, and additional officers were called for assistance. After leaving the North Road house, an altercation occurred between the brothers inside the Dodge Caravan, and Damien fled from the vehicle to escape the attack.

He was later found dead the next morning in the nearby bushes and trees. The police response and how RCMP handled the search for Myles will not be shared due to the forthcoming coroners’ service inquests into the tragedy.


After Damien fled bleeding, Myles drove to a house on New York Road alone. He drove the van into the front of the house and then kicked his way through the back door. Inside, he attacked Robert Sanderson and another man before fleeing on foot, abandoning the grey van. Sanderson died from his injuries.

Myles walked to another house on New York Road, attacking a man and woman. When they fled, he fatally attacked Christian Head and Lana Head. He left the residence in Christian’s white 2004 Ford F350 truck. He drove to Edward Burns Avenue and forced his way into another house, attacking a man and woman. They managed to escape, stealing the keys from the truck to prevent Myles from chasing them.

Again without a vehicle, Myles left the home on foot. He entered another Edward Burns Avenue house through a window, attacking Bonnie and Gregory Burns and two boys. Gregory Burns ran outside, where he later died. Bonnie survived, but this would not be her last encounter with Myles that morning.

From there, Myles stopped briefly at another house on the street, where an occupant described Myles as “bloody” and saying something about “10 bodies” while demanding keys to a vehicle. After he refused and Myles said they were “lucky.” and left without injuring anyone.

Myles left on foot and forced his way inside an Angus McLean Drive home, again demanding the keys to a vehicle and told the person “not to make things harder than they already are.” Myles grabbed a set of keys and left driving a white 2011 GMC Terrain.

He headed to a North Road home where the people inside witnessed the vehicle pull up and saw Myles get out. Myles forced his way inside and attacked Earl Burns and a woman who was able to run out of the home. Burns climbed in the school bus he drove in the community and chased Myles, who was driving the Terrain. The school bus was later found in a ditch on North Road with Burns dead inside, Graham said.

After the school bus chase, Graham said Myles headed to a McLeod Street home where he entered through a back door and attacked Thomas Burns, Carol Burns and two other men.

Thomas made his way outside and was followed by Myles in the Terrain. He struck Thomas and then exited the vehicle and attacked him again. Thomas and Carol both lost their lives.

At this point, Myles abandoned the Terrain and continued on foot to a Melrose Place home, where he knocked on the door and was let inside.

According to witness statements, Myles talked about the number of “bodies” he had so far and was wearing blood-stained clothing. He attempted to attack two men inside the home but only injured one. Myles left the home on foot and headed to another house on Angus McLean Drive.

He knocked on the door, and a man answered. The man later told police Myles had blood on his face and clothes and was holding a knife. Myles asked for the keys to a vehicle and asked “Want to know how many bodies I got tonight?”

The man tried to shut the door and was attacked and injured by Myles before he retreated into the home, Graham said. Myles left, still travelling on foot.

He went back to the Melrose Place house where he previously had been let inside after knocking. This time he had to force his way in. “He was confronted by an adult female who would not allow him to hurt anyone else inside,” Graham said. Myles again demanded keys but left the home on foot.

He then forced his way into another home — located on George Burns Lane — and demanded keys from a woman. After he received them, he attacked the woman and man at the residence.

Myles left travelling in a red Dodge Caravan and abandoned it near an Edward Burns Avenue home. There he again found Bonnie Burns, who he previously had attacked, and Lydia Gloria Burns. Both women were fatally attacked.

Myles then ran away and kicked in the door at another home, demanding another vehicle. Graham said Myles was described as holding a knife and bloodstained. He left the home with the keys to a black 2016 Nissan Rogue.

Myles then drove to a house on School Road, knocked and asked for a man who was not home at the time. He forced his way in and searched the house before leaving in the Rogue. He headed for Kinistino by an unknown route, Graham said.

Around 7 a.m., he drove to a home on Railway Avenue in Kinistino, demanding money and gas from a woman. He left without getting either. The woman was not injured in the interaction.

Based on video surveillance from a gas Station, Myles headed west on Highway 3 toward Weldon. In Weldon, he drove to the house of Wesley Peterson and fatally attacked him on the porch before entering the house.

Peterson was the 11th and final person Myles killed that morning

Another resident heard a scuffle upstairs and stayed in the basement, later finding Peterson dead on the porch. Myles drove around Weldon in the black Nissan Rogue.

On Sept. 4 at 7:12 a.m., an emergency alert was issued to the public, coming 54 minutes after RCMP first responded to the community. “Responding officers were able to understand the scope of this event, obtain the required information for an emergency alert and have that alert prepared, approved and issued to the public,” Graham said.

It would be the first of 11 alerts issued throughout the emergency and subsequent four-day manhunt.

According to Graham, several residents in Weldon witnessed a black Nissan Rogue that morning and a male driver believed to be Myles. A woman in the community said a man covering his face approached her home and asked for help. She was not injured.

Police also received a report that a vehicle was rifled through and a first aid kit and crowbar were stolen. Surveillance video from the community showed the black Nissan Rogue on Weldon Avenue around just before 7:30 that morning. Between Sept. 4 and 7, Graham said hundreds of tips poured in regarding potential sightings of Myles and Damien — who was considered a suspect until his death was confirmed.

In the days that followed the unimaginable explosion of violence, the province remained on edge — particularly in Regina where police initially believed the black Nissan Rogue may have been spotted.

Four days after the killings, on Wednesday Sept. 7, Myles approached a house on an acreage in the Crystal Springs area. A woman heard pounding on the door. Recognizing Myles from the RCMP photos, she didn’t answer. Myles broke a window and entered the house, demanding a vehicle, Graham said.

He left the acreage in a white 2008 Chevy Avalanche after stealing the woman’s cell phone and drove to the One Arrow First Nation. In One Arrow, Myles offered a man $250 for a ride to the city. Presumably, he meant Saskatoon. The man said he didn’t have a working vehicle, so Myles drove off in the Chevy. Around 2:50 p.m., an emergency alert was again issued, this time alerting the public about the theft of the white Avalanche and that the suspected driver was Myles Sanderson.

At 3:17 p.m., an RCMP officer in an unmarked vehicle spotted the truck driving westbound on Highway 312. Graham said “all available RCMP resources” responded. The truck was travelling at 150 kilometres per hour as police forced it off the road into a nearby ditch just before 3:30 p.m., according to Graham. Myles was removed from the vehicle and placed under arrest. At 3:33 p.m., Myles “began displaying signs of medical distress.”

He was taken to Royal University Hospital in Saskatoon by paramedics where he later died.

Graham said all other information concerning Myles’ arrest and death would be withheld at this time to avoid interfering with the work of the coroners’ service.

The release of the timeline marks the first major public development in the investigation into the tragedy since October’s RCMP announcement that Myles Sanderson was solely responsible for the stabbing attacks. In the wake of the tragedy, the head of the Saskatchewan RCMP Assistant Commissioner Rhonda Blackmore pledged RCMP would continue to investigate the killings and publicly release the timeline.

 “We know everyone has been waiting for answers, answers to what happened, answers as to why it happened. Some of these answers, unfortunately, may never be known,” Blackmore said in the opening remark.

“The details are unimaginable,” she said.

Blackmore said RCMP investigators processed more than 40 crime scenes and performed more than 1200 “investigative tasks.” She said nearly 700 exhibits were seized.

At the conclusion of the presentation. Blackmore was asked by a reporter about the out-of-date photo police had access to when looking for Damien.

“We’re not allowed to go and just randomly take pictures of individuals,” Blackmore said. “So, depending on their criminal history, and when those photographs were taken as part of charges against them, it would dictate when the photographs were (from) on our files. If someone hasn’t been charged with a crime, police can’t go and demand an updated photograph.”

The circumstances surrounding Myles’ death are also currently under investigation by Saskatchewan’s police oversight body and the Saskatoon Police Service.

RCMP Sgt. Audrey Soucy served as a moderator during the news conference, she said some details discussed may be troubling and that supports were available on-site for those affected as well as in their communities.

Gloria Burns’ brother Darryl Burns is one of those who attended the news conference in person. He and his sister worked together as crisis workers in the community. He said despite the omissions in the RCMP’s preliminary timeline, he was satisfied with the information provided.

“I kind of have all the answers that I need. I have all the answers that I want to process,” Burns told reporters following the news conference.

“I have been working in this field for a lot of years so I can understand the issues and the feelings and all that kind of stuff that maybe these boys were experiencing before they went off over the edge,” he said.

“I also understand the impact that drugs had on those feelings and emotions before he went over the edge and how they work together to create a madman I guess you could say.”

About sailingayat28@gmail.com

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *