A crisis worker, a mother of two and an elderly widower are the first victims identified in the stabbing rampage in Saskatchewan as their family and friends expressed shock and disbelief, honouring them for their dedication to their communities.
RCMP has confirmed that 10 people were killed in the stabbings and 18 were injured. Additionally, one of the suspects, Damien Sanderson, was killed, his body found in the area of James Smith Cree Nation on Monday.
Police responded to multiple calls from the First Nation community, about two hours northeast of Saskatoon, at 5:40 on Sunday morning after receiving reports of stabbings in the area and the nearby F Division of Weldon.
Gloria Burns was identified as one of the victims by family, who said she was on the community’s crisis-response team and was attending to a call when the suspects entered the home.
Her son, Dillon Burns, praised his mother on Facebook for her heroism and offering support during an emergency.
“My mom was protecting a young man while he was being attacked and she lost her life in the process,” he wrote. “I cannot explain how I’m feeling at this point but I know it’s just like my mom to protect that young man. She would’ve done the same for any of us and she would’ve done the same for the man who has taken her life.”
Assistant Commissioner Rhonda Blackmore, the commanding officer of the Saskatchewan RCMP, released few details about the victims at a news conference in Regina Monday afternoon. Police haven’t identified any of the victims but said they expect to provide more information once they receive confirmation from family members.
None of the deceased are children or infants, Assistant Commissioner Blackmore said, and the youngest victim was believed to be born in 1999.
Lana Head, a mother of two daughters, has also been reported as a victim by her ex-partner, Michael Brett Burns.
Just a day before she was killed, she was upbeat and thankful in a social-media post, saying: “So many good memories to cherish.” In another post, she gave her friends and family a heads up on cases of tomato soup and other food on sale at the nearby Save-On-Foods.
She was remembered by Melodie Whitecap, who described her as a close childhood friend: “I can’t believe ur gone,” Ms. Whitecap wrote on her Facebook page. “I just want to throw something. Why does the world have to be so cruel?” Ms. Whitecap did not respond to a message from The Globe and Mail.
Another friend of Ms. Head’s, Teresa Stewart, wrote on Facebook: “In total disbelief that you were taken from this world in that horror. I will miss our chats and seeing your chipmunk cheek smile.”
Residents in the village of Weldon identified one of the victims as Wes Petterson, a 77-year-old widower. Ruby Works, who was raised in Weldon, said she had known the victim since she was a little girl and described him as a kind person who took care of people in the community. Mr. Petterson ran coffee events on Sundays and drove around the community in the evenings to make sure everyone was safe.
“Wes would have taken the shirt off his back and give it to you,” Ms. Works said. “When I got the news, I collapsed. I hit my knees right to the ground. I couldn’t breathe.”
Mr. Petterson’s adult grandson in his late 20s lived with him, Ms. Works said, and he hid in the basement and called 911 when the suspects were in the area.
The Saskatchewan First Nations Veterans Association confirmed the death of Earl Burns in a Facebook message, saying he was a veteran with the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry.
Mr. Burns’s sister confirmed his death in a statement to news website paNow in Prince Albert. Deborah McLean told the outlet her brother died protecting his family and that his wife is in intensive care.
In a statement on social media Monday afternoon, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe said the province will be putting focus on providing support to the families of victims who are suffering.
“We must turn our attention to what is needed now. First, care and support for the victims and their families. Those who were injured continue to receive the very best possible care in a number of different hospitals,” Mr. Moe said.
“The province’s victim services was deployed to the area yesterday. The local school has set up a centre for those who need services, and I would encourage anyone to reach out to access those services.”
With reports from Nicolas Van Praet, Willow Fiddler, Mark Rendell, Reuters, APTN News and CP
Editor’s note: A previous version of this story incorrectly referred to the Regina RCMP Headquarters as K Division. This version has been corrected to refer to the Regina RCMP Headquarters as F Division.
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