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Clive Weighill, Saskatchewan's chief coroner, speaks to media prior to the opening day of the public coroner's inquest into the mass stabbings that happened on James Smith Cree Nation in 2022, in Melfort, Sask., on Jan. 15.Liam Richards/The Canadian Press

A Mountie who responded to a mass stabbing on a Saskatchewan First Nation says it was chaotic when officers first learned the scope of the deadly rampage.

“The number [of dead] was just continually climbing as we made our way to Melfort,” Staff Sergeant Robin Zentner said during the first day of a coroner’s inquest.

Myles Sanderson killed 11 people and injured 17 others on James Smith Cree Nation and in the nearby village of Weldon on Sept. 4, 2022.

Mr. Sanderson, 32, died in police custody a few days later.

“The objective is to have the story told, honour those victims that died on that day and try to come up with some recommendations that will help prevent this from happening again in the future,” said Clive Weighill, Saskatchewan’s chief coroner.

Blaine Beaven, the coroner presiding over the inquest, told the jurors that recommendations were an opportunity to take some good out of the event.

The six-person jury was finalized Monday morning. Two other people, who will attend the inquest and listen to all of the evidence, were chosen as alternates.

The Saskatchewan Coroners Service has said the inquest is expected to last at least two weeks.

Staff Sgt. Zentner, who is with the RCMP’s major crimes unit, prepared a 188-page presentation laying out the Mountie’s investigation into the mass killing, including information about Mr. Sanderson’s record and the police response to the rampage. The inquest is being held in Melfort, about 180 kilometres northeast of Saskatoon.

A second inquest focusing on Mr. Sanderson’s death is scheduled for February. Public inquests are mandatory in Saskatchewan when a person dies in police custody.

RCMP have described how Mr. Sanderson was stealing vehicles, busting down doors and going door-to-door stabbing people during the rampage.

“There’s not going to be a trial, so this [inquest] is the only way that the family and the public can hear exactly what happened,” Mr. Weighill said.

James Smith Cree Nation Chief Wally Burns said the inquest will likely bring back trauma for community members, but he hopes it will also help with healing.

“Our nation has went through a lot, is dealing with a lot,” Mr. Burns said in a recent interview.

A coroner was in the community last week to prepare families for graphic details expected to be presented during the inquest, Mr. Burns said.

The chief said the First Nation is preparing to support community members through cultural ceremonies and will provide other health services they may need.

Family members of the victims gathered Monday together to smudge, a traditional practice for safety, well-being and healing, before the inquest began.

The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations, which represents 74 First Nations in Saskatchewan, extended sympathies.

“We wish all those affected may find some consolation and strength during this unprecedented time of immense sadness and grief,” Chief Bobby Cameron said in a news release.

Mr. Burns said he hopes the inquest will provide recommendations about self-administered policing for the First Nation. He added he would like to see First Nations receive a notification when a member is released from prison.

Mr. Sanderson, who had a record of violent assaults, had received statutory release earlier that year but was unlawfully at large at the time of the killings.

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