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Jury at coroner’s inquest watches Myles Sanderson police pursuit, arrest before his death in custody

February 26, 2024

Sanderson died about an hour after arrest: RCMP

A screen shows the title page of a presentation on RCMP activity before the arrest of Myles Sanderson. Several people in the foreground are out of focus.
An inquest into the death of Myles Sanderson, the man who killed 11 people and injured 17 others on the James Smith Cree Nation and the nearby community of Weldon in September 2022, is running in Saskatoon this week. (Liam Richards/The Canadian Press)

CBC Indigenous: RCMP officers pursued Myles Sanderson into oncoming traffic, speeding between dozens of vehicles pulled onto shoulders and into the ditch, jury members heard Monday at the first day of a week-long inquest.

Sanderson, 32, died a little more than an hour after police arrested him in the ditch.

Prior to the chase, he killed 11 people at James Smith Cree Nation (JSCN) and the neighbouring village of Weldon on Sept. 4, 2022, and then went on the run.

Six jury members were sworn in Monday at the Saskatoon Inn during the first day of a week-long inquest. They are tasked with establishing when, where and how Sanderson died, and are scheduled to hear from 13 witnesses including police, health-care staff and a pathologist.

On Monday, the jurors watched dashcam footage, accompanied by police audio, from a trio of vehicles during the Sept. 7, 2022, police pursuit after Sanderson, a JSCN community member, who was fleeing in a stolen vehicle. The chase came three days after the stabbings and moments before the manhunt’s conclusion. 

“This is dangerous,” one officer said during the pursuit. Another officer later stated they were driving “at speeds of 139.”

“He’s starting to aim for oncoming traffic now,” an officer said during the pursuit. 

A blurry cellphone photo shows multiple police officers standing behind a man who is pressed up against an RCMP vehicle and has his hands behind his back.
Myles Sanderson is taken into custody moments after RCMP forced his stolen truck off the highway. (Dabber Gamble/Facebook)

Supt. Devin Pugh, the critical incident commander during the manhunt and the arrest, reiterated during his testimony and powerpoint presentation that it appeared Sanderson was aiming for oncoming traffic while driving southbound in the northbound lanes of Highway 11 between Rosthern, Sask., and Hague, Sask.

Pugh said they passed 40 vehicles and a motorcycle. 

Video and audio shows officers being authorized to ram Sanderson and doing so, forcing him into a ditch before surrounding the stolen Chevrolet truck he was driving, pulling him from his vehicle with guns drawn. Several officers then huddled over him. 

The video stops before the moment when police say Sanderson went into medical distress.

Some people in the public gallery wept as the video played. Chief Wally Burns says it frustrated and upset him to hear it.

“I just held it in; because I lost a lot of family, but for my role I gotta be tough for my people and I gotta show them it’s not just their sadness, it’s my sadness too,” said Burns.

A man in a red shirt speaks into several microphones
James Smith Chief Wally Burns talks about the emotional impact of watching the police pursuit that led to Myles Sanderson’s arrest. (Liam Richards/The Canadian Press)
First day of the inquest

A coroner’s inquest is required by law when someone dies while in police custody, unless the coroner is certain the person’s death was due to natural causes and not preventable.

A separate inquest into the massacre, held last month, heard how Sanderson was unlawfully at large. In the days before the killings, he and his brother Damien Sanderson caused chaos, selling drugs and assaulting people in the community.

Jurors heard from Pugh Monday about the team developed to track down Sanderson in the “most intense” manhunt Pugh has been a part of.

RCMP received hundreds of tips and reports from across Western Canada, but police say their investigation found Sanderson never left the Wakaw and Crystal Springs area. 

He ditched the stolen SUV he was driving about 10 kilometres from a house near Wakaw, Sask., where police say he set up an encampment, stealing food and bedding from the homeowners.

Chief calls Myles Sanderson ‘cowardly’ after watching police arrest video at inquest

WATCH | The first day of the inquest into Myles Sanderson’s death:  18 hours ago, Duration 2:17

The week-long inquest into the death of Myles Sanderson, who killed 11 people in a stabbing massacre on James Smith Cree Nation and nearby Weldon, Sask., began Monday in Saskatoon.

Click on the following link to view the video:

Jurors also heard audio recordings of several RCMP communications:

  • A call with the woman whose house Sanderson broke into near Wakaw, before fleeing in her vehicle (the one officers would later pull him from).
  • Officers responding from multiple roadways and trying to encircle Sanderson.
  • A call from a man from One Arrow First Nation who Sanderson had approached and offered $250 for a ride. The man called police, playing a large part in Sanderson’s arrest, police said.

Officers located Sanderson and trailed him westbound along Highway 312 in an unmarked vehicle until they pounced at an intersection beside the town of Rosthern. 

Pugh said he authorized the officers to ram the vehicle, despite them lacking the technical training to do so. He called it a difficult decision to make, given the risk of injury and death to both the officers and Sanderson, but also an easy decision because of the risk Sanderson posed to the public.

Sanderson’s death

Sanderson was arrested at about 3:30 p.m. CST on Sept. 7, 2022, and went into medical distress a few minutes later. He was transported to Royal University Hospital in Saskatoon and pronounced dead at 4:39 p.m., according to Pugh’s presentation.

“Pretty much just only have one question,” said Vanessa Burns, Sanderson’s ex-partner, on Friday.  “How he passed away.”

James Smith Cree Nation killer’s common-law partner speaks before death inquest

WATCH | Sanderson’s former common-law partner speaks ahead of inquest into his death:  4 days ago, Duration 1:40

Vanessa Burns was Myles Sanderson’s common-law partner for more than a decade. She plans to attend the inquest into his death to find out how he died. Sanderson killed her father and stabbed her mother.

Click on the following link to view the video:

Burns spoke at the previous inquest — which began on Jan. 15 and concluded with jury recommendations on Feb. 1 — about the years she spent as a victim of Sanderson’s domestic violence.

Heading into this inquest, she said she wants to learn about what happened when Sanderson died, calling those details the “missing pieces” of the tragedy. “I feel like it’s time for me and my family to start moving on and healing,” she said.

At the inquest’s end, the jurors will also have an opportunity to lay out recommendations to prevent similar deaths in the future. However, their recommendations are non-binding. 

In the weeks following Sanderson’s death, Saskatchewan’s chief coroner Clive Weighill said details on the cause of death would not be released until this week’s inquest. However, he did say that preliminary findings ruled out external blunt force trauma. He reiterated that in an interview with CBC News on Thursday.

Shortly after Sanderson’s death, a senior government official briefed on it by law enforcement said Sanderson died after consuming pills just before his arrest. Multiple police, government and health sources have told CBC News he consumed drugs before police took him into custody.

Sanderson’s uncle Eddie Head has standing on behalf of the Sanderson family, meaning he can ask questions of the witnesses. The RCMP also has standing.

The details from the previous inquest, and its findings, aren’t expected to play a role in this one. The inquest will continue Tuesday with Saskatoon Police Service detective Sgt. Ken Kane.


Dayne Patterson, Reporter

Dayne Patterson is a reporter for CBC News in Saskatchewan and is based in Saskatoon. He has a master’s degree in journalism with an interest in data reporting and Indigenous affairs. Reach him at

With files by Samantha Samson and The Canadian Press