EDITOR’S NOTE: RCMP and Edmonton police initially stated that the suspect is a refugee claimant. The office of the minister of public safety and emergency preparedness later issued a statement saying the suspect is a refugee, not a refugee claimant. This story has been updated to reflect the latest information.
Thirty-year-old Abdulahi Sharif of Edmonton is the man being held in connection with Saturday night’s vehicle attacks in Alberta’s capital, multiple sources told Global News.
At a news conference on Sunday afternoon, police did not confirm the identity of the suspect however, they did provide more details about his history with police.
“We can confirm that in 2015, a complaint was filed with the Edmonton Police Service, around reports being made that the suspect was espousing extremist ideology,” said RCMP Assistant Commissioner Marlin Degrand. “At the end of that exhaustive investigation, there was insufficient evidence to pursue terrorism charges or a peace bond.
“Further, the suspect was not actually deemed, at that time, to pose a threat to the security of Canada.”
Degrand added there was no indication at the time that the suspect was a threat to become violent. The federal government confirmed the suspect is a Somalian national who is currently in Canada as a refugee.
On Global News Morning Edmonton on Monday, Infrastructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi said the man did not enter the country through a sponsored program.
“This individual did not come through in the government refugee program or individually sponsored refugee program, this is one of those incidents where he came on his own,” he said. “This is an action of an individual. It should not reflect on thousands and thousands of refugees who we welcome into our country and who are doing a tremendous job and are contributing to our country.”
WATCH BELOW: Federal Infrastructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi speaks about the Edmonton Terrorist Attacks
Edmonton Police Chief Rod Knecht said the suspect was still being questioned and charges have not been laid, however, he confirmed the suspect was arrested for participation in a terrorist act, commission of an offence for a terrorist group, five counts of attempted murder, dangerous driving, criminal flight causing bodily harm and possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose.
“I want to assure all Edmontonians that from all indications, it appears this was a single individual acting alone,” Knecht said. “We continue to explore several investigative leads so this could change.”
On Saturday night, an Edmonton police officer was hit by a car and stabbed outside Commonwealth Stadium while manning a roadblock at an Edmonton Eskimos football game and several people were later hit by a U-Haul van in downtown Edmonton.
On Sunday afternoon, Knecht confirmed the police officer injured in the attack is Const. Mike Chernyk and that he has been released from hospital. Knecht said he has met with Chernyk and he is expected to make a full recovery.
“He’s in good spirits although his injuries are substantial,” Knecht told reporters. “He was in a struggle for his life, holding onto his gun with the one hand and blocking the knife with the other.”
After the stabbing, police said the suspect fled the scene on foot. Police set up checkpoints around the city and at one point, pulled over a U-Haul van. An officer noticed the name on the licence was the same as the owner of the car that struck the officer at the stadium. Knecht said the U-Haul van then fled and a senior police supervisor decided the vehicle “was to be pursued and stopped.
“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 a police officer had been struck with a car and stabbed, and the possibility that the U-Haul truck could be used as a weapon, the decision was to stop the vehicle.”
Knecht said the U-Haul is believed to have been rented. He also revealed more details about the U-Haul’s path from Wayne Gretzky Drive to Jasper Avenue before police finally were able to flip the truck with the use of a “tactical” maneuver.
“The truck drove left of centre on several occasions, nearly T-Boned at least one vehicle and attempted to run over civilians who were crossing at crosswalks and alleys on Jasper Avenue,” he said.
Once police were able to flip the truck, Knecht said officers broke the windshield, distracted the suspect with a stun grenade and Tasered him after he resisted arrest. He said no shots were fired during any of the chaotic scenes that played out on Saturday night.
Knecht said the suspect was seen by a doctor before being questioned, as per Edmonton police policies, and that the interrogation is ongoing.
According to police, one of the four citizens injured in the vehicle attack had been in critical condition but has since been upgraded to stable. The victims’ injuries range from a fractured skull to broken limbs to brain bleeds, however, Knecht said two have been released from hospital.
Edmonton’s police chief has confirmed an ISIS flag was found in the car. He added he did not believe Commonwealth Stadium itself was a target.
Multiple sources have confirmed to Global News that the suspect lived in a north Edmonton apartment building. A significant police presence could be seen outside the building throughout Sunday.
Watch below: Some videos from Global News’ ongoing coverage of two vehicle attacks in Edmonton on Saturday.
– With files from Kirby Bourne, 630 CHED