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'This is dangerous': Inquest shown video of police chasing Saskatchewan mass killer

SASKATOON — Jurors at a coroner's inquest have seen footage of a white truck, driven by a mass killer, speeding in the wrong direction down a major Saskatchewan highway and swerving toward oncoming traffic as Mounties chased closely behind.

RCMP dashboard camera video of the high-speed pursuit was played Monday during the first day of a coroner's inquest into the in-custody death of Myles Sanderson.

"This is dangerous," one officer says in the video, as cruisers tail the wildly moving truck.

Sanderson was on the run after he killed 11 people and injured 17 others in a stabbing rampage on the James Smith Cree Nation and in the nearby village of Weldon on Sept. 4, 2022.

Police caught up to him three days later and, during the pursuit, the 32-year-old drove the truck into a ditch off a highway north of Saskatoon. Police have said he collapsed while being arrested and died.

Chief Wally Burns of the James Smith band, one of three that make up the First Nation, said Sanderson was trying to avoid facing accountability in his community by attempting to evade police.

"A cowardly way," Burns said during a break at the inquest.

A separate inquest into the massacre last month heard Sanderson had gone from home to home on the First Nation, kicking in doors and attacking people.

After the killings, he travelled to the area of Crystal Springs, a hamlet in east-central Saskatchewan near Wakaw, where he was able to evade capture for three days and seven hours. Sanderson raided a garage for food and drinks and made a camp in the nearby bush.

The province was on edge as police scoured Saskatchewan, following any lead that might locate the killer.

The inquest jury heard a call that came in to the Wakaw RCMP detachment from a woman who said Sanderson had broken into her home and stolen her truck.

An RCMP dispatcher asked the 67-year-old woman if she was all right. The woman emotionally replied: "I don't think so."

Supt. Devin Pugh said Sanderson drove the truck to the nearby One Arrow First Nation, where he tried to pay an acquaintance $250 to drive him to Saskatoon. The person called RCMP and told police where Sanderson seemed to be heading.

Pugh said48 officers and three emergency response teams were quickly dispatched to the area. Airplanes and helicopters took to the sky.

"(We had) one objective: to locate that suspect vehicle and apprehend Myles Sanderson," said Pugh, who was the critical incident commander at the time.

The inquest also heard audio of RCMP members discussing the response over their radios. Cruisers were driving to the area from every direction.

Const. Brianne Hathaway, who was in an unmarked vehicle, spotted the truck and began to follow as it drove towards Highway 11, the main road heading into Saskatoon from points north.

As the truck arrived at the highway, it drove into a gas station parking lot. Hathaway says over the radio it seemed Sanderson knew police were on his tail.

The truck then drove into a ditch, speeding up as it roared onto a dirt road. It tore onto Highway 11, going the wrong direction. Other traffic took to the ditch to avoid a crash.

An RCMP vehicle rammed the back of the truck but it kept speeding ahead. The truck eventually crossed the median, where Pugh said it was easier for pursuing officers to respond.

RCMP dashboard video shows Const. Heidi Marshall driving her vehicle into the truck, forcing it to spin. The truck went into the ditch and the airbags went off.

Multiple officers responded, screaming at Sanderson to show his hands and get out of the vehicle. Sanderson was pulled out of the vehicle and placed onto the ground.

The video was stopped before Sanderson went into medical distress. Pugh said paramedics arrived and Sanderson was transported by ambulance to a Saskatoon hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

The inquest, which is scheduled for a week in Saskatoon, is required under legislation because Sanderson died in police custody.

It is to establish when and where Sanderson died and the cause of his death. The six-personjury may provide recommendations.

The first inquest, which looked at each of the killings, issued more than two dozen recommendations.

Jurors suggested finding ways to better locate offenders who are unlawfully at large and called for further funding and training for security on James Smith Cree Nation.

The presiding coroner recommended improvements for the RCMP warrant enforcement suppression team.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 26, 2024.

Kelly Geraldine Malone, The Canadian Press

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version said Const. Brianne Hathaway was involved in the driving manoeuvre on the truck.