Nova Scotia RCMP now say at least 22 people were killed by a man on a shooting rampage across the province who was dressed in a police uniform and driving a police cruiser.
Late Tuesday afternoon, the Nova Scotia RCMP put out a news release updating the number of victims.
“We believe there to be (22) victims, including a 17-year-old. All other victims are adults, both men and women,” said Nova Scotia RCMP. “Among the victims is Cst. Heidi Stevenson, a 23-year veteran of the RCMP. Some of the victims were known to Gabriel Wortman and were targeted while others were not known to the suspect.”
The RCMP did not hold a press conference Tuesday, and did not respond to multiple requests for comment. Police also confirmed Wortman was wearing an “authentic police uniform."
The military have been called in to aid the investigation for the worst mass killing in modern Canadian history. As first reported by Global News, the military will be providing Nova Scotia RCMP with generators, tents and lights as well as 30 military personnel. Police are currently investigating 16 crime scenes that are scattered across roughly 100 kilometres.
“This tragedy began in Portapique,” reads the police release. “Victims were also found in Wentworth, Debert, Shubenacadie/Milford and Enfield.”
On Monday police said they expected the number of victims to grow as their investigators sifted through the remains of homes the killer burnt to the ground.
The victims include a 23-year-veteran of the RCMP, a retired firearms officer, a teacher, health care workers, and many mothers, sisters, brothers, fathers, sons, and daughters. Nova Scotia RCMP Superintendent Chris Leather said the killings were, “at least in part, very random in nature.”
Police first learned of the killing spree when they went to a home in Portapique after receiving a firearms call Saturday night at about 10:30 p.m..
“When police arrived, members located several casualties inside and outside of a home. They did not, however, locate a suspect,” reads the news release. “Residents of the immediate area were being evacuated by police while the search was ongoing.”
“The initial search for a suspect led to multiple sites in the immediate area, including structures and vehicles that were on fire.”
For the next 12 hours, Wortman would drive an almost perfect replica of a police cruiser across the province killing both those he knew and didn’t know. He was shot dead by police at about noon Sunday.
Police have provided few details about the shooter. He ran two successful denture clinics but both have been shutdown since the COVID-19 crisis began. Neighbours say he struggled with alcohol and had an obsession with policing. The Toronto Star has reported that in 2001 Wortman was convicted of assault and ordered to take anger management classes and not own any firearms. Today’s statement by the RCMP says he did not have a criminal record.
The motive for why he went on a shooting rampage remains a mystery.
The RCMP is being criticised for not sending out an emergency alert to locals, which would have warned residents of the killer. Some victims were killed during their morning walks or errands, several hours after the shooting began. The friends of Lillian Hyslop, who was shot while walking in Wentworth, believe she would still be around if RCMP had made that choice.
"If we were all given that security alert for Northern Nova Scotians to lock your doors, she would have been home," her friend Heather Matthews told the CBC. "She would have been safe in her house. She wouldn't have gone out for a walk."
The RCMP initially said there were 23 victims, but amended that statement in a Twitter reply to say there are 22 victims, and the shooter. This story has been updated to reflect that change.
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