A neighbour of the man who killed at least 22 people last weekend in Nova Scotia says that police found a list the shooter made—and his name was on it.
Nathan Staples, speaking to the Globe and Mail, said police came to his home past midnight on Saturday in a heavily armoured vehicle and told him about the list.
“The investigator said I was seventh or eighth on the list. I didn’t know what to think,” Staples told the Globe. “He came to apologize. He said, ‘We’re sorry we couldn’t have been there quicker.’ That’s when I got angry.”
VICE reached out to Nathan Staples but has not yet received a response. The RCMP would not confirm whether it found a list or that police went to Nathan Staples' home on Saturday evening, saying it was “way too far into the weeds.”
For more than 12 hours from Saturday night until Sunday morning, 51-year-old Gabriel Wortman—a wealthy Nova Scotian denturist—travelled over 100 kilometres and killed 22 people, some who were known to him. Among his victims were a teacher, a RCMP officer, a retired firefighter, and two health care workers. Wortman was killed by police outside a gas station Sunday morning.
The motive of the killings is still unknown. Staples told the Globe he didn’t know why he would be on the list—other than he didn’t sell the shooter a retired police cruiser. He described the RCMP’s handling of the situation as a “royal screw-up.”
“How was this allowed to happen?” Staples said. “How could they not stop it? How could this go on for more than 12 hours, when this guy was still out there, shooting people?”
The RCMP’s actions during this timeframe is being strictly scrutinized, especially for not sending out an emergency alert to people’s cellphones that could have saved lives.
Nova Scotia’s Serious Incident Response Team (SIRT) is also investigating two incidents during the investigation in which officers fired their weapons, including when the suspect was killed Sunday morning. In a separate incident, two officers fired near a fire hall used to register people evacuated from their homes in Portapique. Four people were in the hall at the time.
Pat Curran, SIRT’s interim director, told VICE they were investigating the use of firearms by two RCMP officers near the hall.
“There were shots fired. They were in the area of the hall,” said Curran. “As to what they were shooting at we don’t know. I’m not prepared to discuss the number of shots at this point.”
In a Facebook post that’s since been deleted because it was being used by conspiracy theorists, Onslow Belmont Fire Brigade confirmed that “around 10:30 a.m. there was gunfire at our hall and the gunfire caused considerable damage to our property, including taking one of our trucks out of service. The post said that video surveillance did not capture the actual gunshots or the suspect but did show two RCMP officers enter the property.
"One of these people enters our hall at the front but no one who is sheltered inside the hall spoke with the people/person resembling the RCMP officer so we (cannot) confirm why they were there. No one identified themselves as an RCMP officer. They left our property shortly after the gunfire,” the post said. “Fortunately no one was physically injured.”
At a Wednesday press conference, police said that the killer didn’t have a firearms licence; how he obtained his weapons and his authentic police uniform are “key parts of the investigation.” Police said that while the killer acted alone during his killing spree, they are also investigating if he was aided in the lead-up to his crimes.
The RCMP is also facing stiff criticism for only using Twitter and Facebook to send out an emergency alert. In a meticulously reported article, the Halifax Examiner outlined how poor communication and a bureaucratic system led to them not being able to issue an emergency alert to people’s phones in time to save lives.
“Somebody within the Royal Constabulary fucked up big time,” Glen Canning, a former emergency communications coordinator for the province, told the Examiner. “And relying on fucking Twitter of all things.”
Wentworth resident Heather Matthews told the CBC that she believes an alert would have saved her friend, Lillian Hyslop, who was killed while out on her morning walk.
"If we were all given that security alert for northern Nova Scotians to lock your doors, she would have been home," Matthews told the CBC. "She would have been safe in her house. She wouldn't have gone out for a walk."
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