Suspect facing terrorism charges in Edmonton truck attack investigated in 2015

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

Just Posted

Alberta premier Jason Kenney announced the province's reopening plan late last month and moved into Stage 1 of that plan Tuesday. (photography by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Travel prizes added to Alberta’s vaccine lottery

More than 40 travel rewards available for those who are fully vaccinated

Three calves were recently shot dead in Lacombe County near Mirror. (Photo from Facebook)
Calves shot and left for dead in central Alberta

Bashaw RCMP investigating three shootings

(Advocate file photo)
Red Deer down to 102 active COVID-19 cases

Central zone has 332 cases with 26 in hospital and five in ICU

Photo Courtesy: Echo Lacombe Association logo.
Lacombe City Council supports Echo Lacombe with location for pilot program

Echo Lacombe Association will run a pilot propgram on food rescue until November, 1, 2021

People watch a car burn during a riot following game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup final in downtown Vancouver, B.C., in this June 15, 2011 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Howe
10 years ago: Where were you during the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots?

Smashed-in storefronts, looting, garbage can fires and overturned cars some of the damage remembered today

A plane is silhouetted as it takes off from Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C., May 13, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Report calls for airlines to refund passengers for flights halted due to COVID-19

Conclusion: federal help should be on the condition airlines immediately refund Canadian travellers

Green party Leader Annamie Paul speaks during a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, June 15, 2021. Paul has survived another day of party strife after a planned ouster shifted course, leaving her with a tenuous grip on power ahead of a likely federal election this year. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Green Leader Annamie Paul blasts ‘racist,’ ‘sexist’ party execs who sought ouster

Fallout has continued, with two of the federal council’s members resigning

Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and U.S President Joe Biden shake hands during their meeting at the ‘Villa la Grange’ in Geneva, Switzerland in Geneva, Switzerland, Wednesday, June 16, 2021. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, Pool)
Biden says meeting with Putin not a ‘kumbaya moment’

But U.S. president asserted Russian leader is interested in improved relations, averting a Cold War

A nurse prepares a shot of the COVID-19 vaccine at the Yukon Convention Centre in Whitehorse on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mike Thomas
Vancouver couple pleads guilty to breaking Yukon COVID rules, travelling for vaccine

Chief Judge Michael Cozens agreed with a joint sentencing submission,

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

COVID-related trash is washing up on shorelines across the world, including Coldstream’s Kal Beach, as pictured in this May 2021 photograph. (Jennifer Smith - Black Press)
Shoreline cleanup finds COVID-related trash increased during height of the pandemic

Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup reports litter from single-use food packaging nearly doubled

Doctor David Vallejo and his fiancee Doctor Mavelin Bonilla hold photos of themselves working, as they kiss at their home in Quito, Ecuador, Wednesday, June 9, 2021. Doctor Vallejo and Doctor Bonilla suspended their wedding in order to tend to COVID-19 patients and in the process Vallejo got sick himself with the disease, ending up in an ICU for several days. (AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa)
Love, sacrifice and surviving COVID-19: one couple’s story

COVID hits Ecuadorian doctors who delayed wedding to treat sick

Tuesday’s Lotto Max draw went unclaimed. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Tuesday’s Lotto Max draw went unclaimed. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lotto Max jackpot goes unclaimed again

42 of the 64 Maxmillion prizes of $1 million were won, the majority were sold in Ontario

Most Read