EDMONTON — Investigators are expected to update their investigation today into a weekend attack that left an Edmonton officer stabbed and four people injured when they were hit by a rental truck fleeing police.
Police have said terrorism and attempted murder charges are pending against the suspect, who has yet to be officially named.
Mounties say the 30-year-old is a Somali refugee once investigated for allegedly espousing extremism.
RCMP assistant commissioner Marlin Degrand said Sunday the suspect was checked thoroughly in 2015 after police received a report that he may have been radicalized. Investigators determined at that time that he did not pose a threat.
Degrand said files on the suspect were kept and shared with other intelligence and police agencies after 2015, but that was as much as the law would allow.
Degrand initially said Sunday that the suspect was in the process of making a refugee claim in Canada, however, a spokesman with the federal Public Safety Department later clarified that he had already been found to be a refugee by the Immigration and Refugee Board.
Edmonton Police Chief Rod Knecht said, so far, it appears the attacks were the work of a single person.
“From all indications it appears that this was a single individual acting alone,” said Knecht Sunday afternoon. “We have no reason to believe that there is any threat to our city.”
The attacks began around 8:15 Saturday night near Commonwealth Stadium, just north of downtown, during a game between the CFL’s Edmonton Eskimos and Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
Outside the stadium, Edmonton police Const. Mike Chernyk was handling crowd control and security when a speeding white Chevy Malibu rammed through a barrier and sent him flying five metres through the air.
The driver then got out, pulled out a large knife and began stabbing him. Knecht said Chernyk, a 10-year-veteran, fought back, forcing the suspect to flee on foot.
“He was in a struggle for his life, holding onto his gun with one hand and blocking the knife with his other,” said Knecht. “It’s a testament to his experience and training that he survived.”
Knecht said Chernyk has since been released from hospital and is expected to make a full recovery. He has stab wounds on his face and head and abrasions on his arms.
After Chernyk was hit police set up checkpoints and began stopping cars, leading to a second encounter hours later with the suspect, now driving a U-haul cube van.
Police said when the U-haul pulled over for the checkpoint, the driver produced identification linking him to the registered owner of the white Malibu.
He became suspicious when police held him up, and decided to flee. The U-Haul sped off toward Jasper Avenue, downtown Edmonton’s main east-west thoroughfare, with multiple police cars in pursuit.
Knecht said the suspect drove in the opposite lane, almost T-boned a vehicle and purposely drove into pedestrians, injuring four.
Of the four pedestrians, two suffered head injuries including a skull fracture. Two had been released from hospital as of Sunday afternoon.
“Their injuries range from broken bones to brain bleeds,” said Knecht.
He said officers used a “tactical manoeuvre” to force the truck to crash onto its side just south of Jasper Avenue and the suspect was arrested.
“No shots were fired. In fact, no shots were fired anywhere in this entire incident,” said Knecht.
Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson has urged calm and compassion in the wake of the attacks.
“It is vital now that we not succumb to hatred, that we not be intimidated by violence,” said Iveson. “Terrorism is about creating panic and about sowing divide and about disrupting people’s lives.
“We can succumb to that or we can rise above it.”
The Canadian Press