Edmonton police investigate ‘acts of terrorism’ after officer stabbed, pedestrians run down
A man who stabbed a police officer with a knife and deliberately plowed into pedestrians on Edmonton’s busiest downtown strip is being investigated for “acts of terrorism,” police said at a news conference early Sunday.
A 30-year-old man is in custody following a high-speed chase just before midnight through streets filled with bar patrons and football fans. The chase ended only after a white U-Haul van the man was driving struck four pedestrians and flipped on its side.
“We believe the individual acted alone,” Edmonton police Chief Rod Knecht said early Sunday, adding that police would investigate the possible involvement of others.
Knecht confirmed that a black ISIS flag was seized from a car where the police officer was attacked. The officer was not critically injured. The condition of the four pedestrians is not known.
“Based on evidence at the scenes and the actions of the suspect … it was determined that these incidents are being investigated as acts of terrorism,” Knecht said.
The first attack happened at about 8:15 p.m. Saturday near Commonwealth Stadium, where an officer was working traffic control for a CFL game.
Knecht said the officer was standing behind a barricade when a Chevrolet Malibu crashed into it, hit the officer and sent him flying 4.5 metres into the air.
“A male believed to be 30 years old then jumped out of his vehicle and viciously attacked the Edmonton Police Service member with a knife,” Knecht said. “A struggle then ensued, during which the male suspect stabbed the officer several times before fleeing the scene on foot, northbound down 92nd Street.
The officer was taken to hospital, but his injuries are not critical.
At around 10 p.m., police told a news conference that a manhunt was underway, but there was no threat to the public.
Just before midnight, a white U-Haul van was pulled over at a Checkstop on the north side of town. When a police officer checked the driver’s name, he recognized it as being similar to the name of the registered owner of the car that had struck the officer at Commonwealth Stadium.
‘The police cars just kept coming’
The U-Haul immediately sped off toward downtown Edmonton, where streets were filled with Saturday night bar crowds and football fans.
As bystanders watched, the van barrelled down Jasper Avenue with up to 20 police vehicles following.
“The police cars just kept coming. They just kept coming,” said Jaylene Ellard, who was out with a friend on the crisp fall evening.
Another witness said the vehicles were driving up to 80 km/h in the 50 km/h zone.
“That high-speed chase should have never, ever in a million years have happened downtown,” said Brian McNeill, who was in a parking lot with a group of friends when the vehicles sped past.
One witness said police cars began to block streets that connect to Jasper Avenue. The U-Haul eventually doubled back and drove the opposite way down Jasper Avenue. Near 107th Street the van struck at least two pedestrians.
“Throughout the chase, the U-Haul truck deliberately attempted to hit pedestrians in crosswalks and alleys in two areas along Jasper Avenue,” Knecht said.
Eventually, the van flipped and landed on its side.
Pat Hannigan was about a quarter-block away when he heard a loud bang.
“I saw the van on its side, it flipped over, U-Haul van,” he said. “And they had a guy handcuffed on the ground and obviously they smashed out the window. They had a pipe or something in their hand.”
Knecht said officers did not stop the chase along the busy downtown street “due to the seriousness of the offence — or the believed offence.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued a statement of support on Sunday.
“The Government of Canada and Canadians stand with the people of Edmonton after the terrorist attack on Saturday,” he said. “I am deeply concerned and outraged by this tragedy.
“Our thoughts are with those injured, their family and friends, and all those affected by this senseless act of violence. While the investigation continues, early reports indicate that this is another example of the hate that we must remain ever vigilant against. The RCMP and the Edmonton Police Service, through the Integrated National Enforcement Team, are working closely together to bring those involved to justice.
“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.”
Police are scheduled to hold another news conference at 3 p.m. Sunday.
Edmonton police are working with the RCMP’s Integration National Security Enforcement Teams on the investigation.
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