Testimony from S/Sgt Robin Zentner continued on the second day of the inquest into the mass murder incident at the James Smith Cree Nation and nearby Weldon on Sept. 4, 2022. Zentner walked through the timeline minute-by-minute while under examination by Coroner Council Timothy Hawryluk.
During the first day of the inquest in Melfort, Zentner presented a powerpoint presentation that detailed the police response to the event. This presentation served as the culmination of the police investigation, providing information on events leading up to the mass murder. This included the involvement of brothers Myles and Damien Sanderson in drug distribution, physical altercations, and messages between the two men.
The second day of Zentner’s testimony focused on the events leading up to each attack. Zentner revealed that prior to the mass casualty events on Sept. 4, 2022, Myles Sanderson was known to community members for his involvement in illegal activities, such as drug sales and assault. However, the RCMP was never contacted about his presence or activities between Sept. 1 and Sept. 4.
Zentner provided details about the first homicide victim, Damien Sanderson, who was repeatedly stabbed by Myles while driving. Damien managed to flee from the Caravan, leaving his blood-stained shirt behind as he ran into the grass and bushes. His body was not discovered until the following day due to the dense foliage in the area.
Myles continued his attacks, obtaining a total of five vehicles and alternating between driving and traveling on foot. In some instances, he returned to previously targeted homes before eventually leaving the James Smith Cree Nation for Kinistino and then Weldon to commit his final murder. The resulting tragedy left 11 people dead, 17 injured, and the community traumatized.
During the testimony, Zentner acknowledged the involvement of drugs and gangs in some of the attacks. He stated that Myles had a dislike for the Terror Squad gang and showed indicators of targeting anyone associated with them. However, the investigation confirmed that Myles acted alone, and no evidence was found to suggest that anyone else assisted him.
As part of the inquest, recommendations are being sought to prevent similar events in the future. Zentner emphasized the importance of addressing issues such as drugs and crime, which pose significant challenges for communities. He also highlighted the need for effective communication with communities and collaboration among various agencies and community leaders.
Zentner praised the actions of emergency personnel who promptly treated injured individuals at the band office on JSCN. He also addressed the possibility of a First Nation running its own police service, noting that community members’ familiarity with their surroundings can be beneficial in identifying and tracking down suspects.
The public inquest is expected to last between 12 and 15 days, with further testimony and discussions aimed at understanding the circumstances surrounding the mass murder and finding ways to prevent similar tragedies in the future..