Suspect facing terrorism charges in Edmonton truck attack investigated in 2015

RCMP say the man is a Somali refugee who’s expressed extremist views

Mounties say the man accused of attacking a police officer and running down four pedestrians with a rental truck in a dramatic late-night downtown chase is a Somali refugee once investigated for espousing extremism.

RCMP assistant commissioner Marlin Degrand said the suspect, 30, was checked thoroughly in 2015 and deemed at that time to not pose a threat.

“There was insufficient evidence to pursue terrorism charges or a peace bond,” Degrand said Sunday. “The suspect was actually not deemed at that time to pose a threat to the security of Canada.”

Degrand said files on the suspect were kept and shared with other intelligence and police agencies after 2015, but said that was as much as the law would allow.

“We didn’t have sufficient evidence to warrant continued investigation of that individual following the 2015 (check),” he said.

Police did not name the suspect, who they said was arrested with an Islamic state flag in one of his vehicles.

READ: Suspect facing terrorism charges in Edmonton truck attack investigated in 2015

Degrand initially said was the suspect was the process of making a refugee claim in Canada, but 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.

He is facing a number of charges, including five counts of attempted murder, dangerous driving and participation in a terrorist activity.

Edmonton Police Chief Rod Knecht said, so far, it appears the suspect does not have any co-conspirators.

“From all indications it appears that this was a single individual acting alone,” said Knecht. “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. It was military appreciation night. Canada’s chief of defence staff, Gen. Jonathan Vance, conducted the pregame coin flip and two CF-18 fighter jets did a fly-past before kickoff.

Outside the stadium, Edmonton police Const. Mike Chernyk, with his marked, flashing cruiser was handling crowd control and security when a speeding white Chevy Malibu rammed through a barrier and hit his car, sending 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 from the knife and significant abrasions on his arms as a result of being hit by the car.”

Chernyk managed to radio in what had happened and the manhunt was on.

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, east of the stadium just after midnight.

Knecht said when the U-haul pulled over for the checkpoint, the driver produced identification linking him to the registered owner of the Malibu.

He became suspicious when police held him up, and decided to flee. The U-Haul then 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.

He said the call was made to keep the high-speed pursuit through the downtown, busy with late night bar and night-club goers, because of the threat posed by the suspect.

Of the four pedestrians, two suffered head injuries including a skull fracture. Two have been released from hospital.

“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. Officers smashed through the windshield and tossed in a stun grenade to distract the driver. When he resisted, they used a stun gun to make the arrest.

“No shots were fired. In fact, no shots were fired anywhere in this entire incident,” said Knecht.

Austin Elgie, manager of The Pint bar, saw the van zoom by with police giving chase.

The van “peeled” 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.”

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley called the attacks horrific.

“Hatred has no place in Alberta. It’s not who we are,” Notley said Sunday.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also condemned the violent events as a “terrorist attack” and a “senseless act of violence.”

“We cannot — and will not — let violent extremism take root in our communities,” he said.

In the United States, President Donald Trump’s press secretary issued a statement saying “Law enforcement authorities from the United States are in touch with their Canadian counterparts to offer assistance with the ongoing investigation.”

Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson urged calm and compassion.

“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.”

— With files from Jennifer Graham in Regina and Andy Blatchford in Ottawa

Dean Bennett, John Cotter, Rob Drinkwater and Chris Purdy , The Canadian Press

terrorTerrorism

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Some bystanders with fire extinguishers helped keep the fire under control. Photo courtesy Suzie Thomas
Bystanders keep fire from spreading near McIvor Lake turnoff

‘Just be vigilant and careful,’ says Campbell River fire chief

The Pier Street Farmers Market will once again take up residence on Sundays from May to Septmber at the parking lot across from the Community Centre in downtown Campbell River for 2021. Mirror File Photo
Pier Street Farmers Market returns to Cedar Street parking lot for 2021

…and it’s hoped that the addition of artisans this year will make it even better

Some recommendations from the Downtown Safety Select Committee have been approved by Campbell River City Council, including removing the glass stage covering at Spirit Square. Photo by Marc Kitteringham, Campbell River Mirror
Council going ahead with removing Spirit Square stage covering

But mayor acknowledges need for ‘welcoming, warm place with support services’

A small fire on North Rendezvous Island is the first wildfire of the season in the Campbell River area. Officials are asking people to take caution when burning during these dry conditions. BC Wildfire Dashboard
‘Conditions are tricky at the moment’ warns Coastal Fire Centre

Small fire on North Rendezvous Island first of the season for Campbell River area

Rainbow trouts thrashing with life as they’re about to be transferred to the largest lake of their lives, even though it’s pretty small. These rainbows have a blue tinge because they matched the blue of their hatchery pen, but soon they’ll take on the green-browns of their new home at Lookout Lake. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
VIDEO: B.C. lake stocked with hatchery trout to delight of a seniors fishing club

The Cherish Trout Scouts made plans to come back fishing soon

(Police handout/Kamloops RCMP)
B.C. man dies in custody awaiting trial for Valentine’s Day robbery, kidnapping spree

Robert James Rennie, who was on the Kamloops RCMP’s most wanted list, passed away at the North Fraser Pretrial Centre in Coquitlam

Photos of Vancouver Canucks players are pictured outside the closed box office of Rogers Arena in downtown Vancouver Thursday, April 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Canucks games against Leafs postponed as team returns from COVID-19

The team has had 11 games postponed since an outbreak late last month

For Leela Harrop, the recent death of her brother Raju Tiwari pushed her to sign up for the vaccine. Photo supplied
Island woman on fence about vaccine prompted by brother’s death

Leela Harrop of Comox says she did have issues with signing up online this past week

Danita Bilozaze and her daughter Dani in Comox. Photo by Karen McKinnon
Island woman makes historic name change for truth and reconciliation

Becomes first person in Canada to be issued new passport under the TRC Calls to Action

Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops. (Dave Eagles/Kamloops This Week file photo)
RCMP intercept vehicle fleeing with infant taken from Kamloops hospital

The baby was at the hospital receiving life-saving care

Vancouver Police Const. Deepak Sood is under review by the Independent Investigations Office of B.C. after making comments to a harm reduction advocate Sunday, April 11. (Screen grab)
VIDEO: Vancouver officer convicted of uttering threats under watchdog review again

Const. Deepak Sood was recorded Sunday saying ‘I’ll smack you’ and ‘go back to selling drugs’ to a harm reduction advocate

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry prepares a daily update on the coronavirus pandemic, April 21, 2020. (B.C. Government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate persists, 1,005 new cases Friday

Hospitalization up to 425, six more virus-related deaths

Premier John Horgan receives a dose of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine at the pharmacy in James Bay Thrifty’s Foods in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, April 16, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. Premier John Horgan gets AstraZeneca shot, encourages others

27% of residents in B.C. have now been vaccinated against COVID-19

Most Read