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'Smug, cocky and arrogant': Saskatchewan inquest hears of mass killer's arrest

SASKATOON — A mass killer on the run after a stabbing rampage in Saskatchewan was "smug" while officers took him into custody, a coroner's inquest heard Wednesday. Const.
Vanessa Burns, who had been in a domestic partnership with Myles Sanderson for 14 years, stands for a photograph during an afternoon break at the inquest into the apprehension and death of Myles Sanderson, who killed 11 people and injured 17 others on James Smith Cree Nation and the nearby community of Weldon back in September 2022, held at a hotel conference room in Saskatoon, Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Liam Richards

SASKATOON — A mass killer on the run after a stabbing rampage in Saskatchewan was "smug" while officers took him into custody, a coroner's inquest heard Wednesday. 

Const. Bill Rowley told jurors Myles Sanderson was laughing as police placed him in handcuffs. 

"Smug, cocky and arrogant," Rowley said of Sanderson's demeanour during his arrest on the side of a highway on Sept. 7, 2022. 

Sanderson had been on the run for several days when police caught up to him. 

Vanessa Burns, who was Sanderson's common-law partner, became emotional talking about how the father of her five children showed no remorse for what he'd done.

"I was triggered when I heard his voice," Burns said during a break in the inquest after watching dashboard camera video of the arrest. 

"It brought back a lot of emotions."

Their 14-year relationship was full of violence and ended with Sanderson killing her father, Earl Burns Sr., and 10 others on the James Smith Cree Nation and in the nearby village of Weldon. Seventeen others were injured.

During the third day of the inquest into the killer's death, RCMP officers shared dramatic details of Sanderson's arrest, during which he went into medical distress. 

A forensic pathologist testified Tuesday that Sanderson overdosed on cocaine. 

The inquest, scheduled until Friday in Saskatoon, is to establish when and where Sanderson died and the cause of his death. The six-person jury may also provide recommendations.

Jurors were shown video from RCMP dashboard cameras of a high-speed police pursuit.

Rowley told jurors that Sanderson drove above 160 km/h in the wrong direction on Highway 11, a main route for vehicles travelling from the north to Saskatoon.

"It was a very dramatic, unfolding situation," Rowley said. 

The chase ended after a Mountie used her vehicle to ram the truck Sanderson was driving. Sanderson lost control and went into a ditch.

Officers descended on the truck. Sanderson moved his hand toward his mouth while he was still in the vehicle, said Rowley.

Const. Travis Adema, who was among the responding officers, said it's possible the movement was Sanderson ingesting drugs. But "at that time, it could have been anything."

Rowley, Adema and other officers removed the killer from the truck and took him into custody. 

The inquest was shown video of Sanderson, as he was being searched, asking officers how many people he had killed.

The 32-year-old also told Mounties they should have shot him.

Video shows Sanderson begin to convulse. Officers ask whether he has taken any drugs.

"I could feel his body tense up and start to shake," Rowley said. "I knew it wasn't good."

In the video, Sanderson's knees buckle and he is placed on the ground as officers provide medical help.

Const. Sean Nave, who was a paramedic before becoming a Mountie, arrived on the scene. He told the inquest it appeared Sanderson was having seizures. 

Nave administered two doses of naloxone, a drug used to reverse opioid overdoses. It would have no effect on a cocaine overdose, the inquest heard.

While officers were tending to Sanderson, Adema said he saw something in the killer's hand. It was a plastic bag with a white substance and a rolled-up $20 bill inside, which later tested positive for cocaine.

Paramedic Nic Machan arrived soon after. Machan, who was embedded with the Ottawa emergency response team that was sent to help after the mass stabbing, said Sanderson had another seizure and had no pulse.

Sanderson's shirt was cut off and handcuffs removed. CPR was started, the inquest heard.

Sanderson was placed in an ambulance and brought to hospital in Saskatoon where he was declared dead. 

Paramedic Calvin Heurer told jurors the killer had flatlined and his heart stopped pumping during the entire drive.

A separate inquest into the massacre was held last month, examining each of the killings and issuing more than two dozen recommendations.

Burns says going through the inquests has been difficult, but it is important to understand what happened during Sanderson's arrest in order to find healing. 

"I finally got a look at it. It's helpful."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 28, 2024.

Kelly Geraldine Malone, The Canadian Press