WARNING: This story contains distressing details.
The first two Saskatchewan RCMP officers who responded to the killings at James Smith Cree Nation are expected to recount their experience during the third day of a public inquest into Canada’s worst mass stabbing in recent history.
Over the first two days of the inquest, which began Monday, RCMP Staff Sgt. Robin Zentner summarized the massacre of 11 people, as well as the hours leading up to it.
On Sept. 4, 2022, Myles Sanderson, a community member, killed 11 people and attempted to kill 17 others. All of the victims were attacked on James Smith Cree Nation, except one elderly man who was killed at his home in the nearby village of Weldon.
Sanderson, 32, died in custody shortly after police arrested him on Sept. 7, 2022.
Evidence presented on Tuesday at the inquest in Melfort — a small city about 30 kilometres southeast of James Smith Cree Nation — included audio of 911 calls, text messages, accounts of each killing and graphic crime scene photos.
Zentner was the first of 31 witnesses who are expected to testify over the next two to three weeks and answer questions from both the inquest jurors and others who have standing at the inquest, including James Smith Cree Nation, relatives of the victims and the RCMP.
The public inquest is scheduled to continue until Feb. 2.
Coroners inquests are not meant to assign legal responsibility for deaths, but at its end, the six members of the inquest jury will be tasked with providing recommendations to help prevent similar tragedies from happening in the future. Two jury members have also been selected as alternates.
The inquest is also intended to honour the victims of the stabbings.
Support is available for people affected by this tragedy. The Hope for Wellness hotline offers immediate help to Indigenous people across Canada. Mental health counselling and crisis support is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-855-242-3310 or by online chat at www.hopeforwellness.ca.
You can talk to a mental health professional via Wellness Together Canada by calling 1-866-585-0445 or text WELLNESS to 686868 for youth or 741741 for adults. It is free and confidential.
Talking Stick is a Saskatchewan-based free anonymous chat platform that connects people seeking emotional support to a trained Indigenous peer advocate 24/7.
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