Edmonton police chief confirms attack suspect facing terrorism, attempted murder charges

Edmonton Police Chief Rod Knecht speaks to media following the alleged terrorist attack Saturday night. (Photo courtesy KTB Photography)

The day after a high speed U-Haul chase through downtown Edmonton put five in hospital, police officials said a suspect is in custody facing several terrorism-related charges and five charges of attempted murder.

In a press conference Sunday, Police Chief Rod Knecht stressed that the suspect appeared to have acted alone.

He confirmed the individual began by driving through a police barricade near Commonwealth Stadium, striking Const. Mike Chernyk and then stabbing him several times.

The suspect then fled, and drove towards Jasper Ave, where he attempted to hit multiple pedestrians, eventually striking four.

Knecht said he was only halted by a “deliberate, technical maneouver” by a police vehicle, which caused the U-Haul to roll.

Officers then broke the window and used a “loud, banging stun grenade” to stop the driver, and used a taser to remove him from the vehicle.

No shots were fired.

The suspect, who CBC has identified as Abdulahi Hasan Sharif, is now being questioned and has been charged. A spokesperson for Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said the suspect was a Somali refugee.

The RCMP’s national security enforcement team had previously investigated Sharif for “espousing radical ideology”, said RCMP K Division Assistant Commissioner Marlin Degrand, but did not have sufficient evidence to charge him or continue the investigation.

Knecht said the police officer who was stabbed, Const. Mike Chernyk, has been released from hospital and is expected to make a full recovery.

He added that he visited Chernyk at home Sunday, and he was in “good spirits,” despite “substantial” injuries. He has stab wounds to his face and head, and abrasions on his arms where he was hit by the car, Knecht said.

Knecht said the conditions of the four people allegedly hit by Sharif range from broken bones to a brain bleed. One was in critical condition Saturday night but is now stable. Two have been released from hospital.

“We are grateful no one was killed, this is still a terrible tragedy for the victims,” Knecht said.

Speaking to media Sunday morning, Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson said he was concerned and troubled to see the violence in the video of the driver striking the officer, but urged Edmontonians to remain calm and feel confident in their safety.

“Terrorism is about creating panic, sowing divide and disrupting people’s lives. We can succumb to that, or we can rise above it. And Edmontonians have proven time and time again in times of turmoil that we will rise above hatred, division and tragedy.”

He noted the city has activated their emergency operation centre to monitor the situation.

Knecht stressed people can’t come to any “broad conclusions” from the actions of one individual.

“This is Edmonton, we are a very tolerant community … that’s what makes us unique,” he said. “We welcome everybody. This is an isolated situation involving a single individual.”

He added that the investigation is “very fluid” and “quickly evolving,” and expects to provide another update on Monday morning.

This story was originally published in Metro Edmonton. 


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