Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is condemning the violent events in Edmonton as a “terrorist attack” after a police officer was stabbed several times and some pedestrians were struck with a van. On Sunday morning, Chief Rod Knecht confirmed that they currently have a 30-year-old man in custody and believe that he acted alone. However, the investigation is ongoing and they haven’t ruled out the involvement of others.
According to the chief, they found an Islamic State militant flag on the scene. He said, “It is believed at this time that these two incidents are related [and] are being investigated as acts of terrorism.”
On Sunday, Trudeau stated that he was “deeply concerned and outraged” at the attack which he also labeled as a terrorist attack. Trudeau said, “Our thoughts are with those injured, their family and friends, and all those affected by this senseless act of violence.” He also took the time to thank first responders and the law enforcement personnel.
He also added, “While the investigation continues, early reports indicate that this is another example of the hate that we must remain ever vigilant against. We cannot — and will not — let violent extremism take root in our communities. We know that Canada’s strength comes from our diversity, and we will not be cowed by those who seek to divide us or promote fear.”
According to the reports, the events occurred Saturday night outside of the Edmonton Eskimos CFL football game at Commonwealth Stadium. It was military appreciation night and Canada’s chief of defense staff Gen. Jonathan Vance was tasked with flipping the pregame coin. To mark the even, two CF-18 fighter jets flew past before kickoff. As the game commenced, a white Chevy Malibu drove towards a traffic control post at high speed.
According to Knecht, the car slammed through the barricade which threw the officer on duty, Const. Michael Chernyk, about five meters in the air, before crashing into the police cruiser. The driver then jumped out of the car and made his way towards Chernyk, viciously stabbing him multiple times with a knife before running away.
A manhunt was immediately set in motion after Const. Chernyk was taken to the hospital to be treated for nonlife-threatening injuries.
The chief also revealed that an Islamic State flag was found in the front seat of the car. A mere few hours after the horrific incident, as fans were filing out of the game and led around the crime scene, a U-Haul cube van was being stopped at a check stop north of downtown.
The driver was asked for his license, and Chief Knecht said that the name on the license was very similar to the registered owner of the white Malibu. When the driver was confronted, he stepped on the gas and sped off toward downtown as police cars pursued him. The driver purposefully drove into crowds of pedestrians at the crosswalks, injuring four people.
Austin Elgie is the manager of The Pint bar which is located west of the downtown core. He saw the van speed by as police chased it. The van zoomed into an alley where people were smoking. He said, “There were like 10 cop cars following him … It was crazy. It just came around the corner, ripping. I thought at first he was pulling over for the cops coming by, but he was clearly the one they were chasing.”
According to Elgie, one of his customers was hit by the driver of the van. He states, “I have a registered nurse on my bar team and I grabbed her and had her look after the guy until the ambulance came […] He was breathing and we got him in the ambulance and he was still breathing.”
The chase concluded just outside of the Matrix Hotel, only a few blocks away from Elgie’s bar, when the van flipped onto its side. Zoe Todd, a video journalist for CBC News tweeted, “Witnesses say U-Haul swerved down Jasper with at least 15 police cars in pursuit, turned down 107 Street. Reports of shots fired by police.” She also posted pictures of the scene, including a photo of the U-Haul on its side with a hole in the windshield.
According to the witnesses that were present on the scene, the suspect was pulled out of the car through the large hole in the windshield and then placed in handcuffs. Though the name of the suspect has not yet been released, Chief Knecht said that he was known to police but they had no warning for the attack.
The Premier of Alberta Rachel Notley tweeted her thoughts and support to the injured officer. She wrote, “Our thoughts are with @edmontonpolice member injured on duty tonight & hoping for a speedy recovery. Grateful for our first responders.” According to Knecht, Edmonton police are working with the RCMP’s Integrated National Security Enforcement team and other Canadian security agencies on the investigation. He said in a statement, “The investigation is in its very early stages and we are urging Edmontonians to be vigilant and aware of their surroundings.”
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