A terrorism investigation is underway in Edmonton, where a police officer was stabbed and four pedestrians struck down by a fleeing U-Haul truck Saturday night.
A 30-year-old Edmonton man is in custody and police think he acted alone, but they aren’t ruling out the potential for others to be involved.
“We are urging Edmontonians to be vigilant and aware of their surroundings,” Edmonton Police Service (EPS) Chief Rod Knecht said in a 3 a.m. news conference on the attacks.
At around 11:30 p.m., reporter Laurel Gregory was just wrapping up a live report at the end of Global Edmonton’s News at 11 when a police officer shouted out a warning: “Get behind a tree. Or a car. This is for your own protection!”
READ MORE: A timeline of Canadian terrorist incidents
The chaos began down the street from Commonwealth Stadium, where the Edmonton Eskimos were hosting the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on Canadian Forces Appreciation Night. Over 30,000 people were at the game.
Police said at around 8:15 p.m., a car rammed a traffic checkpoint on Stadium Road near 92 Street, striking an officer and sending him flying into the air.
“Suddenly and without notice and at a high rate of speed, a male driving a white, Chevrolet Malibu crashed through the traffic barricades that were separating vehicles from pedestrians, the vehicle struck the officer, sending him flying into the air 15 feet before colliding with the officer’s cruiser, again at a high rate of speed,” Knecht explained.
A source has confirmed to Global News the police officer injured in the attack is Const. Mike Chernyk. On Sunday, an EPS source also confirmed Chernyk had been released from hospital.
Knecht said there was an ISIS flag in the car. A photo of that type of flag appears below.
Knecht said a man, believed to be 30 years old, then jumped out of his car and “viciously attacked” the Edmonton Police Service member with a knife. “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 and treated for non life-threatening injuries while a manhunt was launched.
Police say it was just before midnight when a U-Haul truck was pulled over at a checkstop on Wayne Gretzky Drive near 112 Avenue. Knecht said the officer realized the driver’s name was similar to that of the Malibu’s registered owner, and the U-Haul truck took off, pursued by police towards downtown Edmonton.
“Throughout the chase, the truck deliberately tried to hit pedestrians in crosswalks and alleys in two areas along Jasper Avenue.”
One witness said the U-Haul came speeding down 109th Street and careened east into the alley next to a bar, hitting two people.
And at 107 Street and Jasper Avenue, someone else was seen being loaded into an ambulance. In total, four people were injured and taken to hospital.
Witnesses described seeing over a dozen police cruisers in the downtown core, lights and sirens on, blocking intersections.
The U-Haul ended up on its side on 100 Avenue, near 107 Street, near The Matrix hotel.
“The driver was apprehended and taken into police custody,” Knecht said. “It is believed at this time that these two incidents are related.”
The incidents bear striking similarities to recent terror attacks in Europe.
“These incidents are being investigated as acts of terrorism,” Knecht explained.
Edmonton police, the RCMP Integrated National Security Enforcement Team (INSET) and its Canadian Public Security Agencies are investigating the incidents as acts of terrorism under Section 83.2 of the Criminal Code of Canada.
“We believe the individual acted alone, but we’re not ruling out that there may be others.”
Police said there was no warning of the event. The name of the man arrested has not been released.
Police asked people participating in Sunday’s CIBC Run for the Cure to avoid the area near 107 Street and Jasper Avenue due to the criminal investigation.
Edmonton police are expected to provide another update at 3 p.m. MT Sunday.
Public Safety Canada, The federal public safety ministry, issued a statement on Sunday to say Canada’s national terrorism threat level is still at “medium,” where it has been since the fall of 2014.
“The Government of Canada monitors all potential threats and has robust measures in place to address them,” the statement reads. “Canadians should remain vigilant and report any suspicious activity to the National Security Tip Line (1-800-420-5805) or by contacting their local police.”
Watch below: Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson spoke to the media on Sunday morning about the terror attacks that occurred in Edmonton the night before.
Mayor Don Iveson spoke to reporters on Sunday and also issued a written statement on the attacks.
“On behalf of City Council and all Edmontonians, I am shocked and saddened by the attacks that took place in the heart of our city last night,” the statement reads. “Though these events are troubling for many of us, and it is alarming to hear that it is being investigated as a terror incident, I wish to urge calm.
“To the best of our knowledge, this was a ‘lone-wolf’ attack. The assailant was brought into custody and is being interviewed as we speak by police.”
Iveson also acknowledged the first responders who “acted swiftly, bravely and decisively in the face of chaos to protect Edmontonians.
“Having spoken to Police Chief Knecht at length, I am confident that our law enforcement agencies are fully in command of the situation and that their investigation is progressing well,” he said. “To my fellow Edmontonians, it is vital now that we not succumb to hate, 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. We will not be divided.”
Premier Rachel Notley issued a statement about the suspected terror attack on Sunday morning.
“The horrific events last night in downtown Edmonton have left us shocked and angry,” the statement reads. “It’s left us shocked at the indiscriminate cruelty and anger that someone might target their hatred at places where we gather with our families and friends.
“Our first responders are incredible people. Thank you to each and every one of our police officers, paramedics and firefighters who put their lives on the line to keep us safe,” Notley said. “Thank you, also, to the women and men who dropped everything to help their fellow Albertans. Your bravery in moments of fear and your compassion in moments of chaos are what’s very best about us.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the injured and their loved ones, and with everyone who witnessed last’ night’s violence,” the statement went on to say. “As we learn more about what happened last night, I encourage everyone to remain vigilant and to listen to law enforcement authorities.”
“Hatred has no place in Alberta. It’s not who we are. We are in this together and together we are stronger than any form of hate.”
Watch below: Alberta Premier Rachel Notley condemns the terror attack in Edmonton and says the events have left Albertans “shocked and angry.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued a statement saying his thoughts were with those injured, adding:
“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. Edmonton is a strong and resilient city, and I am confident that its citizens will support one another to overcome this tragic event.”
Federal opposition leader Andrew Scheer tweeted his thoughts, saying he was “saddened and outraged by the terror attack in Edmonton. My first thoughts are with the injured, praying they all make full recoveries,” and “We must be unequivocal: terrorist ideologies have no place in Canada. Canadians expect those responsible to face swift justice.”
The Alberta Muslim Public Affairs Council (AMPAC) issued a statement via Facebook in which it condemned “any attack on the Edmonton Police Service and civilians.”
“Any acts of violence, hatred, crime is always unfortunate when it comes to this city,” said President Faisal Suri. “As far as the Muslim community is concerned, we want to show we are here for the full support for law enforcement agencies.”
In response to news there was an ISIS flag found in the suspect vehicle, Suri said it is “serious.”
“I totally empathize with the thoughts that come across that but we, as Edmontonians, as Albertans, are equally as affected by this as anyone else would be.”
AMPAC has arranged an event to show solidarity with police and the attack victims at the Fallen Soldier memorial at Winston Churchill Square at 6 p.m.
A statement was released by the White House Sunday afternoon condemning the attacks.
“Law enforcement authorities from the United States are in touch with their Canadian counterparts to offer assistance with the ongoing investigation,” the statement reads.