Edmonton attacks suspect known to police, could face terrorism charges
Edmonton police confirmed the man arrested in connection with the overnight suspected terrorist attacks that sent a police officer and four pedestrians to the hospital could face terrorism charges.
CTV News has learned that 30-year-old Abdulahi Sharif rented the U-Haul Cube van that terrorized pedestrians downtown. Police did not confirm his identity, but said the suspect is a Somalian refugee.
There has been a heavy police presence in the area of 116 Street and 113 Avenue, where the man who rented the U-Haul truck lives.
The suspect was known to Edmonton police and RCMP. RCMP assistant commissioner Marlin Degrand said the suspect expressed extremist ideologies in 2015, but they did not have enough evidence to charge him back then.
“The suspect showed no signs of active recruitment or radical violence at that time,” Degrand said. “We had no intelligence that warranted the suspect under investigation any further.”
The Somalian has not yet been charged for the overnight attacks, but is under arrest for participation in a terrorist act, commission of offence for a terrorist group, five counts of attempted murder, dangerous driving, criminal flight from police, and possession of a weapon for dangerous purpose.
A series of violent attacks
The first incident happened in the area of 107A Avenue and 92 Street at approximately 8:15 p.m.
A white Chevrolet Malibu crashed through barricades and struck an officer. The driver got out of the vehicle and repeatedly stabbed Const. Mike Chernyk before fleeing on foot north on 92 Street.
“He was in a struggle for his life, holding onto his gun with one hand and blocking the knife with the other,” EPS Chief Rod Knecht said. “It’s a testament to his experience and his training that he survived the confrontation.”
Chernyk suffered stab wounds to his face and head, and abrasions on his arms as a result of being hit by a vehicle, EPS said. He was released from the hospital last night.
CTV News cameras captured what appeared to be an ISIS flag inside the suspect vehicle.
A description and details on the identity of the registered owner of the vehicle was provided to officers across the city, and check stops were put in place around Commonwealth Stadium.
“Two astute officers, including one who has only been working the streets for two weeks, set up at a location along Wayne Gretzky Drive, and a large U-Haul truck stopped at the checkpoint and provided his personal information.”
Police recognized the name of the suspect involved in the stabbing.
The U-Haul then fled the scene and police decided to give chase.
“This is always a difficult decision to make, to chase a vehicle or to let it go,” Knecht said. “Based on all the information available at the time that an officer had been hit and stabbed, and that the truck could be used as a weapon, the decision was to stop the vehicle.”
The chief said the suspect’s drive downtown was “sobering.” The U-Haul drove left of centre “several” times, nearly t-boned a vehicle, and attempted to hit pedestrians in sidewalks and alleys around Jasper Avenue, between 107 to 109 Street.
Four pedestrians were struck, EPS said. Two are out of the hospital and one who was in critical condition due to a cracked skull has been upgraded to stable condition.
Injuries to pedestrians include broken limbs and brain bleeds, Knecht said.
The U-Haul continued driving down Jasper Avenue, and a police tactical maneuver was able to force the truck to roll on its side, EPS said.
“Officers then broke the windshield and used a stun grenade to distract the driver,” Knecht said.
After the suspect resisted arrest, police used a Taser to disable him and bring him into custody.
Police said the suspect acted alone.
“I want to ensure all Edmontonians that by all indications, this was a single individual acting alone.”
Mayor Don Iveson and Alberta Premier Rachel Notley reacted to the overnight terrorist attacks in Edmonton on Sunday morning.
Iveson learned about the attack on the police officer Saturday night, and was notified about the second attack Sunday morning. He has been in contact with premier Rachel Notley and Edmonton police.
“On behalf of city council and all Edmontonians, I too, am shocked and saddened by the attacks that took place in the heart of our city last night,” Iveson at the Mayor’s Office. “Although these events are troubling for many of us, and it is alarming to hear that it is being investigated as a terrorist incident, I wish to urge calm.”
The Mayor also commended the work of all first responders in their efforts to protect Edmontonians, and asked everyone to remain strong in the face of terrorism.
“To my fellow Edmontonians, it is vital now that we not succumb to hatred, that we not be intimidated by violence, and that we respond with the loving strength of this whole community in support of the victims and our brave first responders,” Iveson said.
Premier Rachel Notley also expressed sadness, praised first responders and condemned the violent acts.
“Hatred and extremism have no place in Alberta,” Notley said. “Freedom and liberty are core to who we are as Albertans, and that core will never be divided by those who know only far violence and hatred.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau released a statement, saying in part:
“The Government of Canada and Canadians stand with the people of Edmonton after the terrorist attack on Saturday that sent an Edmonton Police Service officer to hospital and injured a number of innocent people who were out to cheer on their football team and to enjoy an evening in their city. 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. I am also grateful for the first responders who were there on the scene, and the enforcement authorities who have been working through the night to make sure that everybody in Edmonton and Alberta is safe and secure."
The White House released the following statement:
“We condemn the cowardly terror attacks on a police officer and pedestrians that occurred late last night in Edmonton, Canada. Law enforcement authorities from the United States are in touch with their Canadian counterparts to offer assistance with the ongoing investigation. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims, as we hope for their speedy and complete recovery.”