Police Provide Grisly Details of Nova Scotia Shooter’s Rampage

After the gunman’s girlfriend emerged from hiding, she told police he had another replica cop car and police uniform.
Manisha Krishnan
Toronto, CA
April 24, 2020, 4:11pm
Gabriel Wortman Nova Scotia Shooting
Photo by Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press

This article originally appeared on VICE Canada.

It wasn’t until Gabriel Wortman’s girlfriend emerged after hiding in the woods all night that Nova Scotia RCMP confirmed key details about the gunman who eventually killed 22 people last weekend on a rampage that spanned 100 kilometers [62 miles].

Nearly a week after the rampage, which started Saturday night and ended Sunday morning, RCMP provided a more detailed account of what took place. Supt. Darren Campbell, Officer in Charge of Support Services for Nova Scotia RCMP said it started with a “significant assault” against the guman's girlfriend.

Campbell said when she emerged, around 6:30 a.m. Sunday, she told police that Wortman, 51, had a fourth police replica car—the cops had already accounted for three, two of which were burning on his Portapique property, another at his Halifax residence. That was also when police were provided the photo of the replica car the gunman was driving around in during his rampage. He said these factors were considered in the decision not to issue a province-wide emergency alert, along with the fact that police had secured the Portapique area.

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Campbell said the murders took place in three main clusters—the first in Portapique on Saturday, the second in the areas of Wentworth, Glenholme, and Debert; and the third in Shubenacadie; Milford and Enfield.

He said Portapique, where 13 victims were killed, is a “quiet and peaceful community” and stressed that the details have been put together with the “benefit of hindsight,” which officers responding that night didn’t have.

While he wouldn’t speculate on the shooter’s motive, he noted “there seems to be a trail of individuals who had problems with Mr. Wortman.”

After the gunman assaulted his girlfriend and she fled into the woods, Campell said police received a 911 call about a shooting in the area; they arrived on scene just before 10:30 p.m. They found a man leaving the area who’d been shot by a man in a police vehicle driving past him. That man said there was only one way in and out of the community and said that the car had been heading toward the beach.

When several police units arrived in Portapique, they found seven locations where people were dead, and several homes “engulfed in flames.”

Campbell said that’s when police’s critical emergency response team set up and established a perimeter in the area and began checking homes for victims and survivors. They said fairly early on they learned that Wortman was a suspect. But it was only when his girlfriend talked to them that they confirmed he had another police replica vehicle and a police uniform and was in possession of a pistol and long guns.

More than 12 hours after the initial shootings, police began receiving a second series of 911 calls, Campbell said.

He said the gunman went to a home on Hunter Road in Wentworth, 42 kilometers [26 miles] north of Portapique, where he killed two men and one woman and set their homes on fire. He knew two of them. He then traveled to a home in the Glenholme area and knocked on the door of two residents who knew him and didn’t answer the door.

He also encountered a woman out walking and shot her on the roadside before heading to Debert. There, he shot people in two vehicles.

On Sunday morning, Const. Chad Morrison had planned to meet Const. Heidi Stevenson at Highway 2 and Highway 224.

According to Campbell, Morrison saw a police car approaching him and thought it was Steveson, but it was the gunman, who “immediately began opening fire.” Morrison drove away wounded.

The gunman continued southbound on Highway 2, while Stevenson was driving northbound.

“Both vehicles collided head on,” Campbell said. He said Stevenson engaged the gunman, but he killed her and took her gun.

Then he shot and killed a passerby and stole her silver SUV.

Afterward, he entered a home on the east side of Highway 224, where he shot and killed a woman he knew and transferred his weapons to her car, a red Mazda 3.

He stopped to fill up gas in Enfield where he was spotted by a cop in an unmarked cruiser who shot and killed him.

Campbell said it’s possible that the shooter moved beyond the perimeter in Portapique before police set up there. He said there was a vehicle seen leaving through a field, which may have been the suspect.

He said he doesn’t know what the gunman was doing overnight, before he started his second killing spree Sunday morning.

He said there are at least three living survivors but there could be more.

He said the investigation is still looking into how the gunman accessed the cop cars and uniform as well as his weapons.

In response to criticism for family members of victims that an emergency alert could have saved lives, Campbell said “they have every right to ask those questions, they have every right to be angry.”

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